Saturday, July 11, 2009

WEEKEND VIEW: Welcome To A New Petaling Jaya!

MY part-time job as a councillor for the Petaling Jaya city council (MBPJ) came to a halt on June 30, last week.

And at the time of writing this article, I do not know if I will be picked again to serve another term until June of 2010.

Whatever the case, Tuesday last week was one filled with mixed emotions of sadness as well as great happiness for me.

Sadness because of having to say goodbye to all the new and wonderful friends I made at the local municipality. They include people at the very top to right down to those at the frontline and ordinary staff.

In my one year of service I am pleased to say that all of them have been very helpful and obliging to me.

Whether it is to attending to a resident’s need or getting the door in front of me or the lift, it was always very nice to be greeted with a friendly smile or a polite handshake as a person in a wheelchair.

Folks, I have learnt so very much as a councillor.

In fact, I have benefitted so much through the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of having a part in the running of an entire city that I wish everyone could be given such a chance too!

For one thing you learn to see life and all its problems from a totally different perspective.

For instance, I hadn’t the foggiest about the kind of problems local councils faced until I got inside.

As a leader of an NGO, I’ve had my share of battles with municipalities in the past. Some of them had not been very pleasant.

But I never realised that sometimes solutions can’t come about in the way we expect them to. Especially in cases where there are other people and factors to consider about instead of only one particular group or two.

It is at times like these that the responsibilities of a councillor can be the most challenging, frustrating and even depressing.

Having said that, though, the past 12 months has been a very encouraging one for disabled and elderly residents in Petaling Jaya.

During my tenure, the disabled in PJ managed to get free medical treatment in MBPJ’s clinic. What a relief this is for the handicapped who have to put up in long queues at government hospitals just to be seen for a few minutes for a flu or fever.

To celebrate international disabled day in December a virtual milestone was created. A never-before-heard-of disabled car park complete with a roof was launched to provide extra protection for the handicapped.

Caregivers can now bring their handicapped children or elderly parents in comfort and safety in all of the 150 car parks that will be built in stages throughout the city. These will be available free of charge.

I had the tremendous honour of setting up and chairing a special committee of experts that sit in a monthly disability technical committee to chart out our barrier-free plans for the city.

The specialised expert-group comprises a top medical doctor together with a team of disabled persons from a mix of handicaps. This is important for the representation of a diverse concern of handicapped issues.

One of the wonderful parts of our group is that all new buildings in PJ will have to come to us first with their disabled-friendly blueprint. Once our input is given, only then will it proceed to the relevant bodies in MBPJ for final approval.

During my official duties I also personally visited disabled and elderly homes in Petaling Jaya. The purpose is to make sure that the handicapped friendly facilities that they provide are up-to-the-mark with the needs of the clients who stay in their facilities.

More than anything else the exercise proved to be an educational tool for the service providers who until then didn’t quite know how to go about in providing such facilities.

With the help of the planning and engineering department, we managed to draw up a revised more up-to-date disabled toilet standard to be used in all buildings as well as a new guideline for elderly homes in order to ensure that even the most disabled elderly guest’s needs are taken into full consideration.

Perhaps the most exciting of all the disabled friendly facilities in PJ is what the MBPJ is currently constructing.

It is a universal-designed pavement that can be used by everyone and anyone - including the blind, physically disabled and even mothers with prams to the elderly.

The 500-metre stretch along Jalan Gasing will be completed before long.

As I wheeled myself up on the pavement last Sunday, I was suddenly overcome by emotion.

I was never happier in my life.

For the very first time since I have been a wheelchair-resident in PJ for over 30 years, I was able to access a user-friendly and safe pavement.

Welcome everyone to a new Petaling Jaya!

The End

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