It is said, “it does not rain, but it pours”. In life it seems, troubles normally comes, one after another. As a driving instructor, no one I feel, knows the feelings of a handicapped person, or an OKU (Orang Kurang Berupaya) better than myself. Quite a few handicapped people have seeked my help to get a driving license.
In one of my articles elsewhere in this blog, I wrote an article entitled A Sad Story that Might Possibly Move You to Tears. In it, I claimed that I was indeed a kind and magnanimous person.
A few years ago, during a practical test held at our institute, I witnessed a sad and touching incident. A young, handicapped or OKU girl, was doing her test. Even though she was not my student at all, yet I was concerned for her all the same. In my heart of hearts my prayers infact were with her. If you are one who understands what a handicapped person goes through in life, then possibly you may in reality know how I felt.
As I reiterated, I watched the above crippled student doing her slope test, then her side parking. And finally, her 3 point turn maneuvers. But unfortunately, when she finally came out from the last part of her exam, she was slow and she knocked into a curb. In reality, she had Failed her test.
The OKU student was going to fail her exam. Do you know, the agony the OKU student would have to go through should she fail? I then frantically looked around for my friend, Mr. Tan. The handicapped student was his student.
I implored Mr. Tan to talk with the chief tester to request him to be symphetatic with the OKU testee. But the chief tester was adamant. He unfortunately had a heart of stone. He could not see or understand how handicapped or crippled person felt! He just couldn’t comprehend what a handicapped person goes through without a driving license. Alternatively, he was only doing his job, after all.
Appeals to the chief tester by my friend and myself, to be lenient with the OKU student and allow her to pass, fell on deaf ears. The chief tester decided to fail the student. He Failed her! And the poor handicapped girl had to do her retest the following week. It was just her luck.
A handicapped person, infact goes through a tremendous lot of hassle, if he or she wishes to secure a driving license. Do you want to know what a handicapped person has to go through?
First of all, a handicapped person has to be examined by an orthopaedic surgeon at the General Hospital. Secondly, an OKU student, has to secure his or her own automatic vehicle. He or she could borrow an auto vehicle from a friend if she wishes to too.
But of course, he or she will have to get the owner’s permission first, then obviously she’ll have to buy the necessary insurance coverage.
Thirdly, a handicapped candidate has to see to it that the required OKU vehicle will have to be plastered with the necessary OKU signs to warn the public of the dangers which they might possibly face when they confront him or her.
Should a handicapped person be lucky enough to secure a driving license, his or her problems does not end there. As I said earlier in the beginning of this article, it doesn’t said, but in reality, it pours. If you are an OKU, you infact face a lot of problems later on.
Besides securing a valid driving license, OKU drivers face parking problems after they secure their driving license. Municipalities, be it Selayang Municipal Council, the Petaling Jaya Municipal or the Klang Town Council, are not at all bothered about the sufferings of our less fortunate OKU people.
Let me quote you the hardships and sufferings of one handicapped person, Mr. P.S. Nathan, from Petaling Jaya.
The above writer laments, he faces tremendous difficulties everywhere. Infact, up and down the country. At PLUS rest stops, and even hospitals, as well. Mr. Nathan says, he faces lots of difficulties in trying to park, at Selayang Government Hospital, University Hospital and even the Kuala Lumpur Hospital as well.
Mr. Nathan further laments that it is not that the authorities do not accord the necessary parking places for OKU and handicapped people. The parking lots are there. But it is just that the Malaysian Public do not seem to bother about the feelings of our unfortunate OKU brethren at all.
Who in actual fact can help our handicapped brothers, asks Mr. Nathan. The people who can lend a helping hand are:
i. The public. Abled bodied people should not attempt to compete with the less fortunate and handicapped people by parking at OKU parking lots.
ii. The police should also go around shopping complexes and malls, large government buildings like EPF, Income Tax Department and Registration Departments and see to it that parking lots are not misused. Stern actions should be taken against abled bodied folks who rob OKU people of their rightful parking places.
iii. Guards or hospital personnel can also chip in to help to a certain extend. But in reality, their hands are tied. They have no right to take stern actions or fine those drivers who abuse the use of OKU parking facilities.
iv. Although parking lots in most big towns in Malaysia are allocated by many municipal councils for handicapped people near banks, utility payment areas such as Telecoms, N.E.B. officers, the Waterworks Department, shopping malls and supermarkets, nevertheless, in most cases, such facilities are misused.
What can an OKU or a handicapped person do about it?
They can do nothing except pray and hope that there will be some form of compliance and understanding from the general public towards OKU parking areas. Besides that, all the OKU people can hope for is to appeal to the authorities concerned to provide a better commitment towards regular enforcement.
And finally, it is imperative for all agencies to comply with Akta Orang Kurang Berupaya 2008. Set up designated parking lots for the OKU. And the most important of all is to enforce the provisions and see to it that the abuse currently committed by abled bodied individuals of our society is no longer tolerated. Together, let us not allow the rain to pour any further.
I read with great amazement that a growing number of people in the island of Singapore with medical conditions, are not letting their disability get in the way of driving a car. It is reported that Singapore has a hospital rehabilitation scheme to help disabled people to be mobile. As such, disabled people will no longer have to depend on others if they wish to move around. Disabled people in Singapore, will be more self reliable in the future.
The above programme which was initiated by the Singapore authorities is considered as a good move. As such, the government of Malaysia, especially the Road Transport Department or the Jabatan Pengangkutan Jalan (JPJ), should likewise ape Singapore’s good moves regarding the rehabilitation of disabled people.
Permit me to explain to readers what in reality is “disabled” people. Disabled folks differ from the “handicap” or Orang Kurang Upaya (OKU) category. Disabled people, as a matter of fact, are people who have lost the use of their arms and legs. In short, the use of their limbs. Through diseases and ailments, even accidents, some people unfortunately lose their faculties.
Diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels, have been said to have caused many people to lose their ability to drive a vehicle.
What I am trying to suggest is that Malaysia should ape Singapore’s move as far as rehabilitation of disabled people are concerned. After all, when Tengku Abdul Rahman was our Prime Minister, the “Tunku” followed a foreign policy of “pro democracy”, aping England and the United States of America.
Under our Prime Minister, Dr, Mahathir Mohammed, Malaysia adopted a foreign policy of “Looking East”. We then were trying to follow the footsteps of North and South Korea, and especially of Japan.
I’m sure Malaysians find nothing wrong with the above foreign policies advocated by both Tengku Abdul Rahman and Dr. Mahathir Mohammed.
There is a popular saying, “imitiation is the highest form of flattery”. That was what my English teacher, Mr. James Pandian used to say. As such, the Malaysian authorities, should study Singapore’s rehabilitation programmes regarding disabled drivers and introduce them for the good and benefit of
Malaysian drivers, who have unfortunately lost their ability to drive. We should not forget that these disabled people were once upon a time, people who were able to drive. They, in reality, possessed valid car and motorcycle licenses prior to their becoming disabled.
Talking about “imitating” people, we, Malaysians should not forget where our Demerit System or system Kejara is derived from. In case, you have forgotten, the above two systems are from Australia. As a matter of fact, the present driving institutes’ syllabus and programmes closely follow that of our close neighbor, Australia!
Now, let’s now revert back to the rehabilitation schemes which are said to be available in Singapore. “Help” it to said, is available in a scheme at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). The TTSH has a “Driving Assessment and Rehabilitation Programme” or D.A.R.P. it has been reported, this programme has benefitted some 435 people since last year (2011). The previous figure being 281 in 2008.
What actually is D.A.R.P?
D.A.R.P. was started in 2001. It was initiated by a group of occupational therapists at the Tan Tock Seng hospital. The above scheme assists people with medical conditions to “learn” or “return” to driving. It is said, the D.A.R.P. programmes are able to provide patients on better quality of life.
What does the programme D.A.R.P. incorporate?
1. An assessment which tests on off the road physical, cognitive and visual abilities concerning driving.
2. An on the road test by a certified driving instructor and a TTSH occupational therapist who will evaluate a disabled person’s capability to drive a “modified” vehicle.
Only those who get through the above 2 tests will then be allowed to drive. It is only after passing the above 2 tests can a learner “relearn” driving under a qualified driving instructor.
In the D.A.R.P. scheme, some disabled patients are given the opportunity to use the left foot to accelerate and also to step on the brakes.
There are obviously many more steps and measures regarding the Driving Assessment and Rehabilitation Programme. I will not divulge all of it here. Suffice only to state that the Centre for Enabled Living has issued some 458 car park labels for disabled people, up from 176 in 2007.
Finally, in Singapore, disabled folks who feel they need a special modified vehicle can contact the Handicaps Welfare Association or HWA for practical lessons.
Has the D.A.R.P programme benefitted the disabled community in Sinagpore?
It should be reiterated that it has indeed increased the mobility and independence for those with disabilities.
Well, Malaysian authorities and especially the JPJ, what about it? Can we or can’t we emulate our neighbor with regards to the D.A.R.P. programme? I’m of the opinion that if it is something good, it should be followed.
To end this special article on ways and manners to rehabilitate our own disabled people, allow me to relate to you a real life story. A few days ago, a potential driving student of mine, a Puan Phospam, 38, from Klang, had wanted me to meet her husband, a Mr. Rajan, also 38. Upon meeting with the above husband, I was surprised to learn that Mr. Rajan has lost 2 of his legs. He was a diabetic patient.
Rajan had ignored his doctor’s advice. He had refused to take his medications faithfully. This resulted in his legs being amputated at waist level. The above person holds a valid driving license, he is currently being treated by the Cheras Rehabilitation Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
The above department has promised to give Mr. Rajan 2 prosthetic limbs and also provide him with therapy classes. But Rajan will need to do a retest to secure his driving license again. A D.A.R.P. rehabilitation centre, I’m certain, will go a long way to assist disabled people like Rajan! We should therefore think seriously regarding the setting up of a D.A.R.P. centre here.
Driving schools and institutes in this country have not switched over from manual to automatic cars as yet.
Nevertheless, about a year ago, the authorities, that is, the Road Transport Department did cause quite a “storm”, when it announced that driving schools and institutes in Malaysia would very soon be allowed to use “automatic” cars for both purposes of “learning” as well as for “tests”. But, like everything else, this proposal very soon was put into the “cold storage” and nothing more was again heard about it.
Inspite of the fact that driving schools and institutes use only manual geared vehicles to teach potential students in Malaysia today, many people may not be aware of the fact that automatic cars can in reality be used and is being used.
There is in fact a group of people, the disabled or orang-orang yang kurang berupaya (O.K.U.) or if translated into English language, the “less unfortunate members of our society”, can both learn and test in an automatic car. This fact is I believe, not known by many people, even the O.K.U. themselves.
Talking a little bit more about the O.K.U., let me tell you a few things about them that you may not know. O.K.U.s need not wait in line at clinics and hospitals in our country. They are infact given special or preferential treatment, especially when getting medication.
Certain municipal councils like Kajang, Petaling Jaya and even Klang, of I’m not mistaken, provide special “passes” for parking to O.K.U. people. In LRT or light rail transit trains such as those operated by the Rapid Transport Company in Kuala Lumpur, the management advise people to provide O.K.U. folks seats should they encounter O.K.U. people.
Many establishments, such as supermarkets and banks for example, do provide parking spaces for those who belong to the O.K.U. category. In fact, these spaces are reserved for O.K.U. by the local councils themselves. For this, we should infact convey our gratitude and thanks to the “majlis perbandaran” or local council people.
Even though special parking places for the O.K.U. are reserved for the less unfortunate people, nevertheless, I feel that the numbers of such parking areas are still insufficient enough. Take Klang, the royal town of Selangor Darul Ehsan for example.
Around the Malayan Banking premises at Jalan Sireh, opposite Jalan Meru, one can see only one or two parking spaces reserved for O.K.U.s around its vicinity and clinics therein. The local councils, all throughout our nation, should infact see to it this anomaly be corrected as soon as possible.
But what is more important is that, normal people, and those who are abled bodied should not continue to go on “robbing” or “depriving” our so called less unfortunate brethren of the O.K.U. group of their rightful places to park their vehicles.
I believe, if only you are an O.K.U. person yourself, will you then know how a disabled person feels when he or she discovers that their places to park has been taken over by abled bodied members of our so called “caring” society.
Do think about what I am attempting to convey. Do not in future, ever attempt to park in the special blue coloured parking spaces with a wheel chair in it. It is meant for disabled person only!
In an article entitled “Parking Bay For the Disabled Taken Up” appearing in the Star newspaper dated 17th January 2011, the article went on to highlight that parking bays reserved for the “disabled” are being taken up by abled bodied motorists, leaving the O.K.U. frustrated and helpless.
One disabled resident from Petaling Jaya, Mr. Balasubramaniam, for example, expressed his frustration that parking bays which are reserved for the handicapped near Maybank in P.J Newtown, are often occupied by others.
Mr. Balasubramaniam reiterates motorcycles are parked all over the place, even on the five foot ways or verandahs where pedestrians walk. Are you aware that disabled people cannot park their vehicles if there are motorcycles all over the place? O.K.Us are unable to push the motorcycles away, said Mr. Balasubramaniam.
Mr. Balasubramaniam says he realizes that P.J Newtown area is a very busy area, nonetheless, he hopes that the abled bodied members of our society will accord more consideration, especially to the less unfortunate disabled people of our society!
Even though “cones” are sometimes placed in parking bays specially designated for the disabled people, they are nevertheless removed by abled bodied motorists, to park their cars there. How selfish can some people get!
A signboard put up specifically by the Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya in front of such parking bay says it’s strictly for disabled people, but sadly, not many motorists choose to heed it.
What should be done to solve this difficult by sad situation as faced by our disabled brethren and O.K.Us people? I can only suggest:-
1) Throughout the country, send their enforcement officers to such places and take strict against those motorists who violate this important directive.
2) The police can likewise do the same and summon motorists who have chosen to ignore these directives, thereby causing so much despair to the disabled community.
3) Even J.P.J officers on the rounds in their patrol cars are also requested to do their bit for the “O.K.Us” and disabled people too.
With this article, it is hoped that the problem of parking bays for the disabled being taken up” by abled bodied motorists will no longer exist.