Although a car offers greater convenience and flexibility than other modes of transportation, many people with disabilities cannot afford owning and driving a car to move from one place to another. Even though people with disabilities can drive, including the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and people with developmental disabilities, they face discrimination and gatekeeping in obtaining a driver’s license, as well as stigma questioning their driving competence.
Studies have shown that people without access to a car reach fewer activities and services and are more likely to be subject to social exclusion. Age and disability can also prevent people from driving and using public transport.p. 9, Urban Insight, 2018
Therefore, accessibility of public transportation plays a vital role in advancing the mobility of all people with disabilities in everyday life, i.e., grocery shopping, working, studying, obtaining healthcare services, attending social gatherings, engaging in cultural, leisure and sports activities. For some, public transportation is a necessity, especially people who are Blind and Visually Impaired and people with chronic pain or chronic fatigue.
Unfortunately, public transportation in many localities have not been planned and implemented to cater to the diverse needs of people with disabilities.
Public Transportation Challenges Faced by Persons with Disabilities in Malaysia
To ensure that persons with disabilities have equal access to public transportation facilities, amenities and services, Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act 2008 section 27(2) states that:
“providers of such public transport facilities, amenities and services shall give appropriate consideration and take necessary measures to ensure that such facilities, amenities and services conform to universal design in order to facilitate their access and use by persons with disabilities.”
This is included as an action step under the National Transport Policy 2019-2030 (strategy 3.4) to “improve accessibility at passenger terminals and on public transport with the aim of universal access for persons with disabilities”.
Some accessibility features are currently in place, such as buses and trains being designed to accommodate wheelchair-users, and installing lifts and accessible toilets in public transport stations. Persons with disabilities are also offered concession fares (discounted) for public transport rides. However, these are inadequate to make public transportation accessible and usable for persons with disabilities in Malaysia.
Barriers to public transportation experienced by persons with disabilities in Malaysia include, but are not limited to:
- Public transportation is not available in the local neighbourhood.
- Poor public transportation transit network.
- Pedestrian environment is lacking, i.e., inaccessible pedestrian pathways, no door-to-station connectivity (first mile last mile connection), not safe (especially road crossing), not well maintained (e.g., potholes or broken tiles), misuse by others (vehicles parked on walkways).
- Lack of wheelchair-accessible public transport vehicles.
- Public transport stations do not have step-free access or has confusing signage.
- Information and notifications of public transportation status are not inclusive of all sensory disabilities and literacy skills.
- Negative attitude and discrimination from public transport operators and other passengers.
- Not safe to use, e.g., bus stopping in a busy road without connected pedestrian pathways.
- Concession fares available only in selected localities and public transport providers, i.e., RapidKL networks in Klang Valley, Rapid Penang in Pulau Pinang, Rapid Kuantan in Pahang, KTMB train services, and MAS domestic flights.
Making Public Transport Accessible and Inclusive
Accessible public transportation is not just about making vehicles usable for wheelchair-users and building accessible toilets in public transport stations; even though the aforementioned are important. However, it is much more than that.
The design of public transportation needs to be adapted to the needs of people with diverse abilities and disabilities to enable greatest ease of use for ALL users.
Public transportation facilities and services need to:
- Be easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, cognitive ability or language skills, for every stage of making a journey, i.e., map reading, understanding schedules, journey planning, wayfinding, and identifying the correct stops, stations and platforms.
- Communicate necessary information in different sensory modalities (visual, sound, tactile), such as audio announcements, easy-read texts, easy-to-understand graphic information, Braille, sign language (Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia – BIM).
- Be efficient and easy to use with minimum fatigue, such as ticketing machines that are tolerant to slowness and requires minimum manipulation, and minimum walking distance between connection stops.
- Support users timely, effectively and with compassion to cope with service disruptions, delays and emergencies, especially users with invisible disabilities.
- Ensure safety of all users, such as installing more supports for equipment, wide and even pedestrian paths with step-free access and safe road crossing.
- Ensure that appropriate size and space is provided for safe approach, reach and manipulation.
*Note: Resources linked are in English and pdf or webpage format, unless stated otherwise.
Accessibile Public Transport
Accessible Public Transport by Urban Insight
The Importance of Public Transport Accessibility and Social Inclusion by UITP (Union Internationale des Transports Publics)
Making Public Transport Information Accessible to Disabled People by Lise Wagner for Inclusive City Maker
Public Transport: Accessibility Solutions, Also for the Intellectual Disability! by Zoe Gervais for Inclusive City Maker
Public Transport Experiences of Persons with Disabilities
One in Four Disabled People Don’t Use Public Transport Due To Negative Attitudes from Other Passengers, New Research Finds by Helen Coffey for The Independent, UK
Why Riding the Bus with a Hidden Disability Can Cause Anxiety by Emilia Wilson for The Mighty
Transit OKU Should Be For All Wheelchair Users in PJ by Peter Tan, disability activist
I’m deaf, and have found that transportation services have a long way to go to be more accessible. Here’s how I navigate traveling by Sarah Katz in Business Insider