By: Reshmashree Vengidasalam
BRICKFIELDS is renowned for its steady, incessant traffic. It is a perpetual scenario of speeding cars and pedestrians scurrying along the already narrow roads. Picture this…you are given a stick and you have to make it from Point A to Point B safely with your eyes closed. What an unfathomable, insane thought, you may say. Now this gets more interesting…what if I add on obstacles like potholes, slippery tiles and uneven roads to the already unreasonable quest. Do you think you will be able to complete your journey and arrive in one piece? Though it may sound ridiculous, this is exactly what the visually impaired go through every day in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.
Those who suffer this predicament are largely from the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) which is located in Brickfields itself. MAB is the premier voluntary organisation in Malaysia serving visually impaired persons. Thus Brickfields is almost home to them as they try to integrate into society but sadly, their safety is not assured as most walkways here are not user friendly. The new tiles albeit pretty get slippery when wet and there are sufficient slabs of broken tiles to cause mishaps. The uneven tiles that protrude at odd angles spell catastrophe.
As a Malaysian who often commutes to Brickfields, I appreciate the effort taken by DBKL to beautify the heart of Kuala Lumpur, yet it saddens me to see that the finished product is of an inferior quality. Reconstructions are intended to ease the lives of the most frequent users and in Brickfields, any restoration must aid the disabled but circumstances show otherwise. Despite several complaints lodged since the start of the reconstruction, nothing has been done to improve the situation.
There are constant road works going on even during peak hours which put people in a dilemma especially when the zebra crossing itself is under repair! When the roads appear like construction sites with tools strewn everywhere with no worker in sight, accidents are bound to happen. I had a first-hand experience when I witnessed a visually impaired lady walk right into a wheelbarrow placed on the walkway near the construction site. She hurt herself and managed to find her way only because bystanders came to her aid. Millions of ringgit has been spent on a cause that is making residents, tourists and citizens suffer on a daily basis.
City council should take a poll and let residents decide what they need when it is the tax payer’s money after all. DBKL should take this issue seriously and bear in mind that the aim of reconstructing must be to improve like investing in materials for walkways that are suitable such as textured tiles and not matt tiles with a highly glossy surface that will be slippery when wet.
Construction materials should be suitably posited within the parameters of the work area, giving due consideration to our visually impaired friends around Brickfields. MAB should be informed beforehand regarding the construction work and the sites where work is to be carried out each week. MAB subsequently can inform its members as a precautionary measure to decrease casualties. There should also be a specific time allocated for road works or reconstruction and peak hours should be avoided as this will only cause inconvenience and create chaos. Yes, this may be a tall order but the safety and comfort of citizens must never be compromised at all costs.