The Star Malaysia
Sighted people behaving ‘blind hearted’
WALKING on the streets is a daily routine for many. Some people find it a pleasure to walk around, but for some, it can be very risky.
Have we ever imagined walking on a street without any source of light and in complete darkness throughout the journey?
Jalan Tun Sambanthan has been developed with facilities to help the blind move around independently. Credit should be given to the authorities for providing tactile tiles along the pavements, audible traffic lights, elevated overhead bridge, and signboard for the blind.
However, it is sad that the facilities provided seem to be abused by the community there. It’s either they do not understand the purpose of the tactile pavement or they are too consumed with their own needs. It seems like the sighted people are “blind hearted”.
Mobility is the major problem faced by the disabled especially the blind and the physically disabled as the built environment is not friendly to them.
Hence, it is our responsibility to help them and not to create further obstacles, as what the neighbourhood in Jalan Tun Sambanthan did. This area still needs lots of improvement.
The tactile pavements were supposed to be free of obstacles that might be a hazard to the blind. But we can see most hawkers have their stalls over the tactile pavements.
It looks like the blind have to adapt to the non-user friendly surroundings created by the irresponsible in their neighbourhood.
There are also some points where the tactile pavement heads nowhere especially at construction areas. The blind might end up bumping into the hoardings.
Besides, Malaysians lack awareness of the importance of a clean environment. Most of them throw their trash all over the place, including on the tactile pavement.
This, creates another obstacle to the blind not to say the unpleasant smell for both blind and sighted pedestrians.
Discontinuation of tactile pavements may cause the blind to feel lost while walking. Furthermore, the drain covers are not safe for the blind as their white canes might get stuck in the drain cover hole.
There are places where the tactile pavement is located too near to the shop house wall. This is why the blind prefer to risk their life walking on the road instead of on the tactile pavement.
Street furniture such as street cabinets and poles being placed too close to the tactile pavement increases the possibility of the blind walking into them.
Furthermore, the tactile pavement does not guide the blind into a building, and the blind will be left to search for the building entrance themselves. There is no signboard in Braille for the blind to refer to.
Most developed countries have implemented tactile pavements up to the building entrance and also have audible guidance devices at the building entrance to facilitate the blind who are travelling alone.
Changes of level of walkways are unavoidable. Therefore, guidance for the blind must be adequate in order to ensure safety and easy access for them.
There are also many unwanted holes along their path which are due to lack of maintenance.
The community, designers and authorities should work hand in hand if we are to create a better built environment for the blind not only in Jalan Tun Sambanthan but in other places as well. Help the blind to live their life to the fullest. NOOR FAIZAH ISMAIL, Kuala Lumpur.