Thursday, March 5, 2009
Penang to make public transport disabled-friendly by 2010
GEORGE TOWN: Penang will be the first Malaysian state to conduct a full audit of its public transport facilities while it develops a comprehensive blueprint to improve the access and mobility of people with disabilities by 2010.
The initiative to boost the economic and social independence of those with disabilities, will be done through a two-year pilot project by the state’s Economic Planning Unit (UPEN) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNPD) to study how to create a barrier free public transportation in Penang.
UNPD Assistant Resident Representative James George Chacko said the ‘Transport for Persons with Disabilities - Support of the Development of Accessible Transport in Penang’ and its access audit on public buses, taxis, trains, ferries and airplanes as well as other infrastructures would lead to the development of a holistic transport improvement strategy that would in turn offer a framework for raising awareness levels in the general public.
“The audit will also look into pick-up points, road pavements and pathways emphasising on inter-connectivity. The findings of this audit will form the basis to develop an accessible public transport improvement master plan.
“The other initiatives to be undertaken in the coming months will include a demand responsive door-to-door transport service in Penang island; capacity building for disabled people in accessing public transportation; disability equality training for front line transport operators; training on access building requirements and universal design for contractors, architects and civil servants; designing a barrier-free bus stop model; and an awareness campaign,” he said at the launching ceremony of the UNPD-UPEN project at Dorsett Penang Hotel on Thursday.
Chacko also said the project was supported by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, and UNPD was confident with the project’s strong rationality, it would receive the necessary financial backing of the Federal Government.
“The project seeks to develop a ‘best practice’ model that we hope can be replicated nationwide,” he added.
State Local Government, Traffic Management and Environment Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow, who launched the project, said the state government was also studying the possibility of drawing up a transport master plan and forming a state transport commission to serve as a one-stop agency responsible for planning, implementation and management if all transport issues in Penang.
“The necessary documents are currently being prepared for submission to the state executive council.
“We hope they will be ready by the end of the month or early next month before we start work on formulating the master plan, which we estimate will take one or two years to draw up and implemented,” he said. - Bernama