Saturday 8 March 2008

The Plight of the Disabled and Elderly in Malaysia

On Voting Day.

Obstacles are a barrier for disabled and elderly, many polling stations were upstairs, or there were steps to be negotiated before a voter could reach the room where they were scheduled to vote.

EC staff, manning the affected polling stations were reported to have assisted the disabled and elderly as much as they could, this is commendable, but the fact remains that all buildings and other facilities should be easily accessed by everyone.

Below is a report which was published in Star on-line.

8 March 2008. PETALING JAYA:

A lack of facilities did not prevent many disabled and elderly Malaysians from casting their ballots on polling day Saturday.

“I will not allow my disability to stop me from voting,” said Jamaan Sarmidi, 51, from Kg Pandan who has only one leg.

Jamaan moved around at the polling centre with the help of the crutches.

Meanwhile, 63-year-old homemaker Mahani Ahmed Sikah who had difficulty walking, was wheeled into the polling centre by her son Mahayuddin Mahfudz, a voter too.

“I want to vote for the price of goods to go down,” said the frail-looking Mahani.

“I have never missed a single election,” she added.

At Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur, Loke Kum Yoke, 85, managed to cast her vote despite her walking difficulty.

However, voters at several polling stations in the Petaling Jaya Selatan constituency complained about the inaccessibility.

Some complained they were forced to either drop off their elderly parents at the school gate where they had to take a long walk in, or had to carry their wheelchairs due to a lack of ramps.

One elderly voter gave up voting when he could not walk up the steep road at one of the polling stations.”

Datin Hamah Mohd Pait, 78 who was wheeled in to the polling centre in a Section 16 school, was forced to get out of her wheelchair and walk slowly to the classroom to cast her vote because there were no ramps."

As reported in New Straits Times.
"Voting not so great for disabled and elderly
By David Teow and Presenna Nambiar

KUALA LUMPUR, Sat: 8 March 2008

Putting the voting channels on Ground Zero would have been ideal but Election Commission officials said some polling stations could not accommodate this, proving tough for disabled and elderly voters as the EC failed to make allowances for them.

At some Kuala Lumpur polling stations, many disabled and elderly found themselves having to cast the ballot papers at voting channels on the second and third floor of the building. The problem was worst at SMK Taman Yarl in Seputeh and Methodist Boys School Sentul (MBSS), which had a large concentration of the elderly and disabled.

EC state election officer for Kuala Lumpur Juhari Abd Rahman said the officer in charge of the polling centre still had the discretion to decide where to place the voting channels. It is understood that each polling station must have a minimum of four voting channels - the first for citizens born between 1910 and 1920 placed on the ground floor and second, for voters born between 1920 and 1940 or later.

Juhari claimed that not many schools designated as polling stations have classrooms on the ground floor. The space is usually reserved for staff room and laboratories.

"We sympathise with their plight but we are unable to do anything. You have to vote at the designated area. It is the law,” he said.
However, this did not stop Mike Chong, 47, a disabled voter in Sentul from climbing the stairs to reach his voting channel in the MBBS. Chong said this was the second time this has happened to him, since he started voting in 1990.

"It’s lucky that I have my wife with me to hold my crutches," Chong said as he painstakingly made his way down the steps holding on to the banister.

Batu’s Gerakan candidate Lim Si Pin said he would take the matter up with the Election Commission soon.

In Seputeh, problem was slightly elevated when DAP candidate Theresa Kok succeeded in getting the area’s Election Officer M. Ashaari Othman to relocate two voting channels to the ground floor. The SMK Taman Yarl centre initially had seven voting channels, six of them on the third floor.

The crowd cheered at the improvement but many disabled people still had to climb the stairs to vote.

“It’s just disappointing that the Disabled Persons Act which was tabled at parliament last year managed to ensure all government buildings and initiative be made disable friendly but somehow alluded the Election Commission,” she said."

Sadly there were several reports of elderly persons passing away whilst waiting to vote, or soon after they had voted, it is to be hoped that these deaths were not linked to the exertion which they had to endure in order to be able to gain access to their respective polling stations.

On Each and Every Day

Please go to Petpositive blog here, for a treasure trove of information about helping the disabled, the elderly, and the way in which animals can enrich their lives everyday.

You can also read a letter, addressed to each and every one of the newly elected Members of Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies, this letter was originally printed in the Sun newspaper on 4th March 2008, and can also be found on-line here,

The letter draws the attention of all those who will be elected today, to the problems still faced by the disabled and elderly in Malaysia until this now.

Access for All via Universal Design!

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