Understanding Barriers Exercise

Understanding barriers

We did the ‘understanding barriers’ exercise a week ago with the M Arch students and the research assistants. This exercise was introduced to me in 1998 when I participated in a UN ESCAP training course in Penang. Since then I had used this exercise in many other events, notably with the local authorities.

The following is an explanation from ESCAP together with photos from the session.

  • To facilitate an orientation towards a common understanding among the participants of the attitudinal and societal barriers that are inherent in everyone, participants engaged in an exercise that required them to spontaneously draw or write their individual impressions and feelings associated with the text given to them: the text on each large sheet of white paper was either “Person” or “Disabled Person”. The participants worked together in groups of six to eight persons to respond in silence to the written text. The purpose of the exercise was to elicit deep-seated feelings and thoughts regarding “Disabled persons”. To highlight this, a contrast was provided through responses to “Persons”.
  • Responses to the text differed markedly. Generally, the word “Person” evoked responses that were more positive, life affirming and with future-oriented possibilities. The sheets were populated with lots of “smileys”, with brighter and happier colours used.
  • Overall, responses to “Disabled Person” tended towards protection, sympathy, responsibility, care and problems. The colours were more sombre. The expressions pertained to international access symbols, ramps and money/costs. There was a relative lack of warmth, family and home.
  • In the analytical processing of the responses, it was underscored to participants that:
  • It was the environment, products and services as currently designed that had a disabling impact on persons;
  • There were cultural beliefs and myths that caused stigmatization of “the disabled” in many societies of the Asia-Pacific region; however, having an impairment per se should not be a reason for the exclusion of a person from participating in society;
  • Disability had no borders and cut across all social and economic strata; disability-ability was a continuum in that everyone experienced different levels of ability at different stages in life, as well as under different circumstances and in different conditions;
  • Thus, it would be incorrect to dichotomize all persons into two simple categories: “normal/”healthy-complete” versus “handicapped”/”unhealthy-incomplete” or “we/us” and “they/them”.

Text above taken from:

Report on the ESCAP South-South Cooperation Programme on Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities, 10-19 December 2014 in Guangzhou-Macao-Hong Kong, China

photo 4 photo 1 photo 1a photo 2a photo 3a


Equality Ordinance Commission in Hong Kong

“Disability Discrimination Ordinance under the Equality Ordinance Commission in Hong Kong. I am sharing this because I learnt so much when Dr York Chow, the Chairman of the EOC spoke to us about what they do and then I thought how this could be a gauge of how we should go about achieving a similar situation in Malaysia. It feels a long way of, but Hong Kong started with zero back in 1995. The city is so accessible with the Bottom-Up approach”.  Actually when I spoke with Dr Chow, he said that although in some countries they have a Human Rights Commission, it is often just ‘window-dressing’ and I thought about SUHAKAM and felt that it is a shame that we can’t utilise SUHAKAM in the same way. I think the only way is to pressure the National Council for Persons with Disability Act to create a Disability Discrimination Ordinance or a similar mechanism under the acts.

The DDO in Hong Kong who is chaired by Joyce Tam, is under the Labour and Welfare Bureau which is the implementation mechanism of the Government, whereby the EOC is independent though elected by the CEO of Hong Kong. We can find a similar way to get a penalty or way of penalising both government agencies and private sectors.

Hong Kong EOC


Resolution 69/13 – Incheon Strategy of the Asia-Pacific Meeting on Disability-inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction: Changing Mindsets through Knowledge

In the light of recent disasters such as flooding, what are the preparation our nation and ASEAN countries have done to meet on this challenge?


“When I left the National Council for Persons with Disabilities Act in 2012 the last thing I did was present a paper on disaster preparation without much knowledge and thin research. So I am just sharing what I has sent then in this blog post”


Disaster Preparation, Rescue and Relief for Disabled Persons in Malaysia


Universal Design and Built Environment Committee,

National Council of Persons with Disabilities Act 2008

9th August 2012 Paper Presentation

Executive Summary

In Malaysia, the proposal is to form a working committee to start working on the issue of Disaster Preparation, Rescue and Relief for Disabled Persons in Malaysia under the National Council of Persons with Disabilities Act 2008. All the Government ministries and agencies, rescue volunteer organisations and disabled persons/organisations should address this issue.

The Working Committee could address the following solutions:

  1. Training for Rescue Teams: Bomba, PDRM, Volunteer Services, Hospitals etc
  2. Guide for Residents and Rescue Teams
  3. Information on Social Media, Television and Radio
  4. Research and Development – Portable Toilet for Disabled Persons, Rescue Aparatus

Background Study

Disaster is defined as a “calamitous event, especially one occurring suddenly and causing great loss of life, damage, or hardship, as a flood, airplane crash, or business failure” (dictionary.com). In Malaysia, one type of natural disaster, i.e. floods has been common due to the seasonal heavy rainfall. Others (earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires) are less common but due to rapid physical development certain natural disasters (landslides, floods) are becoming common in parts of the country.

Development is correlated with population growth across the country, but especially in the cities populations are expected to be growing rapidly. Disasters in the built environment include both natural and anthropogenic origins. Anthropogenic (or man-made) disasters in the built environment could stem from fires started by arsonists or by accidents, or the detonation of bombs. This means that disaster prevention and management must take into account the socioeconomic and geographical factors that will influence how resources (food, aid, manpower etc.) are allocated during disasters.

Certain agencies or groups are more prepared or have more experience in dealing with certain aspects of disaster prevention and emergency management than others and therefore it is important to identify the strengths of each agency/ group when forming a task force and/or choosing which one will be the head.

It is also important to learn from other countries that have already set up their task force / council so that we adapt and/ or innovate on their solutions.

In the US, more than one agency is responsible for providing resources to deal with disasters and the needs for disaster management always change. For example, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, two men carried a woman who uses a wheelchair down 68 flights to safety moments before the tower collapsed. This means new situations provide for new experiences and lessons and thus interests on to manage disaster and emergencies are renewed (http://www.access-board.gov/evac.htm).

Also, resources on Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management are available from the 1. American Red Cross, 2. the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 3. the National Center on Emergency Planning for People with Disabilities, and 4. the National Organization on Disability (NOD).

In order to integrate both government and non-government groups, a task force (initiated by the NOD) called the Task Force on Emergency Preparedness and People with Disabilities, was formed by having representatives from 1. Disability groups, 2. Emergency planning and response organizations, and 4. Various government agencies.

At the government level, the Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC) on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities (established by Executive Order in 2004), is responsible for implementing policies to address the safety and security needs of people with disabilities in emergency situations. The Council is headed by the Director of Homeland Secretary and is comprised of representatives from other Federal departments, including the Department of Labor (DOL).

In Ontario, Canada, Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities and/or Special Needs was prepared by the Government of Ontario’s Emergency Management Ontario in partnership with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. In the guide, users are advised that “Emergencies can occur suddenly and without any advance warning. Although Ontario has effective emergency management legislation and programs, individuals and families play a vital role in preparing for times of crisis when emergency services and other government resources may be strained. It is important that individuals and families prepare to be self-reliant for at least three (3) days immediately after or during an emergency.” The guide makes specific categories for the following:

  • Mobility
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Non-Visible Disabilities
  • Seniors with Special Needs
  • Highrise Safety
  • Travel Considerations

Concerned about the state of our country’s Disaster Preparation, Rescue and Relief for Disabled Persons, Dr. Naziaty and the Committee for Universal Design and Built Environment solicited information from individuals regarding the above matter late July 2012 via email. We asked the following questions (6 items).


1) Which government agencies/ministry will be the main authority to create the policy for this? Ministry of Defence? If yes, then of course, they will have to work with the state government, local authorities and Min of Women, Family and Community Development (i.e. via JKM). Do you agree? If yes or no, please comment. What other ministries would be crucial?

2) What are the best practices that you have witnessed so far in Malaysia or overseas? Please give some contacts or websites of best practices in government agencies? NGOs? Community efforts? Individuals?

3) What is the role of the Red Crescent, St John’s Ambulances, Mercy etc on this? Please suggest what role they should take.

4) I assume that there are 3 stages to this: Preparation, Rescue and Relief, so I will work with you guys on these three different stages.

5) There are many natural disasters, i.e. floods, earthquakes etc? Shall we include all of them. Please name more of the natural disasters and how we should tackle them.

6) I will also consult DBKL and other local authorities on this. Hopefully there will be time. Do you have any contacts? Can you give me any contacts that would be helpful for this paper?


The full responses are given in Appendix 1.

Appendix 1: Responses from individuals.

  1. Bathmavathi Krishnan (NGO representative):
    1) Am not sure Bomba & Civil Defence comes under which Ministry

2) Yes, agree they have to work with Min of Women (who also look after vulnerable groups – children, elderly & OKU)

3) There are so many, many relief orgs in Malaysia

3) Role of these orgs Red Crescent, Mercy etc..can be obtained from their websites (or brochures)

4) Yes, agreed.. Prep, Rescue, Relief…sometimes also may involve resettlement… eg tsunami, earthquake survivor victims who have lost families, source of livelihood etc.

5) Yes.. include all form of disasters.. fire, floods, earthquake, landslide, building collapse, major industrial explosions/blasts, victims of road accidents (there are cases when extricating survivors .. more damage caused, resulting in physical impairment)

  • Peter Tan (Digital Awakening / DET Trainer)

1) JPOKU since this department was specifically set up to manage disabled people’s affairs. MOH, Ministry of Home Affairs (PDRM), Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Bomba) and other agencies tasked with flood/disaster relief work should be involved.

2) University of Kansas has quite a comprehensive plan on this.
Dr. Glen White could be a reference.

5) Yes, but not only limited to natural disasters but emergencies like fires, highrise fires and building collapse.

iii. Zashnain Zainal (activist / individual who volunteers in flooding situation such as the Bangkok floods in 2011)

1) KPWKM should be the main authority.

2) As mentioned during our meeting, I suggested FROC (Thailand’s flood relief operational center) – I volunteered my services there during the 2011 flood.

3) There should be a council or a working group specializing in Disaster Situations for Disabled People and People living with Disabilities. All that you have mentioned should be committed into this platform of action and coordination.

4) Kindly add Monitoring and Evaluation as the 4th component.

5) Should include all natural and man-made disasters (for example, a horrific explosion of chemical disaster)

6) You may tap into my skills and experiences. Though due to the timing and that I am in Thailand at the moment, it may prove to be challenging, but not impossible.

iv: Dalilah Bee Abdullah @ Ch’ng Gaik Bee (DBKL Officer at Unit Inovasi dan Piawaian)
Pasukan Mencari dan Menyelamat Khas Malaysia

Pasukan Mencari dan Menyelamat Khas Malaysia atau SMART (Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team) merupakan sebuah pasukan khas mencari dan menyelamat yang ditubuhkan di bawah Majlis Keselamatan Negara Malaysia yang berdasarkan kelulusan Jemaah Menteri pada 18 Mei 1994.

Susulan daripada tragedi keruntuhan pangsapuri Highland Towers, Ulu Kelang pada 11 Disember 1993, Jawatankuasa Kabinet yang bersidang 21 Disember 1993 telah meluluskan penubuhan Pasukan SMART di bawah pengurusan Pejabat Majlis Keselamatan Negara; Pasukan SMART ini dianggotai oleh pegawai dan anggota daripada jabatan kerajaan yang berkaitan seperti Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat Malaysia (JPBM), Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) danAngkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM).

Di antara misi-misi yang pernah disertai termasuklah:-

  • Misi Mencari Dan Menyelamat Mangsa Tsunami di Aceh, Indonesia pada Disember 2004
  1. Misi Mencari Dan Menyelamat Mangsa Gempa Bumi Di Muzafarabad, Pakistan pada 2005
  2. Misi Mencari Dan Menyelamat Mangsa Tanah Runtuh Di Leyte, Filipina pada 2006
  3. Misi Mencari Dan Menyelamat Mangsa Gua Tanah Runtuh Perak Cave Templer, Perak Thong pada 12 Januari 2009
  • Misi Mencari Dan Menyelamat Mangsa Bangunan Runtuh Jaya Supermarket Seksyen 14, Petaling Jaya Pada 28 Mei 2009
  1. Anita Ahmad (UNDP Officer)
  2. I believe the best agency to work with MWFCD on this is not Ministry of Defense but the Ministry of Home Affairs (KDN) as the Civil Defense Agency (which takes care of emergencies during disaster) http://www.civildefence.gov.my/v2/profil-jabatan-2/navigations-4/pengurusan-bencana-operasiis under them. Also, the police should be involved and the police is also under KDN.  You may also want to consider the National Security Council (NSC) under the PM’s Dept. They too have a section which is suppose to oversee disasters. Under the NSC, is also the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART) which is supposed to do search and rescue work.  You also need the Bomba on board.
  1. NGOs like Mercy Malaysia usually assist in delivering essential items needed during emergencies depending on their assessment of the situation. The items vary from medical goods, water, sanitation items etc. They key thing for them would be to ensure that they include PWDs as beneficiaries. Not sure if they do that now. In some circumstances, they will assist in rebuilding the medical capacity and/or infrastructure and this has included rehabilitation centers for the disabled – if again, their assessment finds this is needed in the said country. They also bring along volunteer doctors etc on missions for basic medical health care and emergency operations. The best is to raise that PWDs should always be included as Red Crescents/Mercy/St John’s list of beneficiaries and share with them what you think PWDs needs are during emergencies.
  1. For the full cycle of disaster management see http://mercy.org.my/0910060459%c2%bbOur_Approach.aspx
  1. Other disasters (natural or otherwise) relevant to Malaysia: landslides and tsunamis (which is not the same as earthquake)

Agencies and Organisations involved:

  1. Government Outfits / Non-government interest groups
  1. Ministry of Defense (Military)
  2. Ministry of Home Affairs (Police, RELA, Bomba)
  3. Ministry of Women Family and Community (via JKM/JPOKU)
  4. Ministry of Health (Hospitals & Ambulance)
  5. St Johns Ambulance, MERCY, Red Crescent
  6. State Government
  7. Local Authority (e.g. DBKL)
  1. Legislations/ guidelines
  1. Akta OKU 2008
  2. Malaysian Standards
  3. Housing Act


I attended the MCR meeting two days ago, and expressed my feelings of what NGOs should be doing in Malaysia. Organisations such as MCR and the affiliated members should act as pressure groups as the decade outcomes has been very slow in being realised. Lo and behold that was one of the resolutions in the Incheon Strategy: Highlight the need to have pressure groups.

Here are the documents to be shared:


Terjemahan Incheon Strategy Feb 2014


Malaysian Resolution on The Incheon Strategy

Access Audit

Housing for Disabled Persons in Malaysia

When you have the financial means, you could purchase a medium or medium-high cost flat or condominium in the Klang Valley near Kuala Lumpur as very likely your office is right in the middle of city or centrally located, like my workplace.

I did spend a lot of money to live near my office and a government hospital it is because of the long term health issues that I am anticipating that I will have to endure and maintain. It is not a coincidence that I am in the civil service and signed up for a government pension scheme to lessen the burden of my loved ones when I shall be in need of hospitalisation.

As a disabled person who had been disabled most of my life, I have planned for my old age. I believe other disabled persons who had been disabled since they were children anticipated the same issues as well. If they are not in the government service, they would be prudent with their savings and obtain a very good health insurance plan.

However for someone who got disabled in their adult life and worse still when they have dependents, they have a shorter time to sort out their health plans. For those with low income and at the poverty level, the problem would be very acute indeed. Housing for them would be an even greater issue as transportation to work is problematic as well, especially when the public transportation system is inaccessible.

What are the government efforts to assist disabled persons especially those in the low income bracket when it comes to housing?

I visited a recently designed to comply with the government policy to integrate disabled persons needs in low cost housing in Kuala Lumpur. The low cost housing developed and maintained by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall had addressed the accessibility needs of disabled persons by allocating a few units at the first floor level ( there are no units at ground level) near the lift lobby.

I would like to share some images of what I had found at PPR Selayang Taman Wahyu, near Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur.

oku access

Figure above shows the route that the disabled person takes to access the lift lobby. He still has to use the road although it is quite smooth, but if there are lots of motorcycles or other vehicles his route may be impeded.

OKU carpark

Figure above shows the lot reserved for the disabled person with a chain across to obstruct the misuse of the lot.

ramp rail

The route to the lift lobby beyond as shown in the background of the photo in the figure above is provided with handrail at the sides of the ramp.


The figure above shows the staircase which only have one set of rails which is not fully accessible for disabled persons.

ramp corridor


The figure above shows the ramp leading to the unit reserved for disabled persons. The size of the door is also quite wide for access and a cursory glance inside shows the unit to have a bigger corridor space inside.

lift call butt


The lift call buttons include embossed Braille letterings but is a bit difficult to feel as a anti-vandal box is encasing the buttons.

ramp 1stflr


The drops at the main routes were minimised and replaced with ramps, which is adaptedly designed.


lift lobby grd


The lifts are spacious as it was seen someone with a motorbike even using it.



The ramps have a gradual gradient and only about two per block but other access have drops and steps.

Access Audit

Jaya One, Petaling Jaya update

I frequent Jaya One a lot, perhaps three to four times a week. I could be called a regular customer.

The week before hari raya I was not very happy. In fact there was a weekday when I wanted to go to the post office but I could not get a single car parking lot, let alone an accessible one. I text to the manager of Jaya One and complained about it. I encountered a similar thing again the next few days and contacted the new manager. We texted to one another regarding the situation and recently I was really happy that he managed to make sure the first three accessible car parking lots are next to the lift at B1. I was so glad that no one parked there as well. I texted ‘thank you’ to the new manager.

20130804-235921.jpgFigure above shows the situation before rectifying

where there is no accessible car parking lots.

IMG_8488Figure above shows the new situation where three accessible car parking lots with lots of space at the sides for transferring have been designated near the lift. I like the logo on the floor with the clean circle.

As the manager mentioned, the entire car park facility is actually undergoing upgrading in conjunction with revised persons with disabilities (PWD) requirements issued to the developer by the MBPJ PWD committee. I am looking forward to the changes but I know from past experiences that when it comes to access features and universal design, sometimes (more often than not) the designer, architect and/or contractor are not able to implement the correct design. I do not see many correct designs done before.

I suggested to the new manager that I could talk to the architect to inform them on how to use the tactile tiles correctly. Furthermore, I would like to raise is the use of the correct type of tactile block or tile, either the dot-type (that says ‘warning’) or the line-type (that says ‘go ahead’) and the problem is that designers, architects and contractors have problems in using them.


Figure above shows the use of dot-type tactile tiles and line-type tactile tiles. There are two mistakes: (1) The implementation do not have to line the whole length of the car parking lot width with the tactile tiles. (2) The dot-type tiles are for warning to cross the road or change of levels and is placed too near the lot to make any difference. In fact having the line-type would be better to lead the blind person to the lift.

I would like to see the rest of the renovations or being asked to consult on the proper use rather than comment further but I think its a waste of tactile tiles being placed at the accessible car parking lots at B1 at the moment. Blind persons would not be driving their cars but be escorted by a sighted person anyway. I would like to see the changes in other critical areas such as walkways, change of levels, bus and taxi stands.

I am looking forward to see the use of step ramps. I cannot bring my wheelchair to the lift at G level near Wendy’s to go to Starbucks, for example. I would like to see something done about the steps. I would be happy to assist the contractor or designer on exactly the correct way of designing and implementing these access features.


Universiti Malaya’s Access Guide

UM had a Bengkel Aksesibiliti for OKU done last week conducted by UIAM staff. Please see link : News from UM on Access Guide

I want to sit back and see how they will accomplish this. I am in the Committee for HEP’s Access for OKU students in UM. I am aware of this workshop. We have been involved accessibility issues since 1998. It is not to be separated OKU issues and other accessibility issues in UM. I respect the Deputy Chancellor for Students Affairs, Datuk Prof Rohana and Prof Kuru speech, I hope it goes further than just this bengkel.

Ideas and just ideas but how to implement? How to sustain it? How to integrate it to all users and not just OKU?

On another note, I am speaking at KPT, Polytechnic section next 6th of February 2013. For that meeting several people are representing on a lot of issues. I will propose several strategies to make polytechnics especially that for vocational institutions that includes OKU students at entry level, registration, housing, academic, pre-graduation training for employment and post graduation, the whole process works.