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Catering to special people

26/10/2002 Published in NST-PROP A Buyer Watch Article by National House Buyers Association

The government should seriously consider legislating a mandatory requirement for the adequate provision of facilities for the disabled in all buildings

We Malaysians like to claim ourselves as being a caring and concerned lot. We go through a lot of trouble to raise funds to help victims of disasters, both at home and in far-away countries. Yet, when it comes to the less fortunate "special people" we don't seem to be very thoughtful.

Just who are these "special people"? In the booklet, Planning Guidelines and Standards - Facilities of the Disabled, published by Ministry of Housing and Local Government's Town and Country Planning Department, they are referred to as the "disabled" and "handicapped". Not being overly particular about semantics, however, we would like to refer to them as "special people."

The Planning Guidelines and Standards document stipulates quite elaborately the various special needs of these people. However, guidelines will remain guidelines and they have been largely sidelined.

On the other hand, the Uniform Building By-Laws 1984, By-Law 34A stipulates the various features that need to be provided for special people in buildings that "can be visited by the public..."

Hence where projects are not categorised as public amenities there are no stipulated requirements for special people. The provision for such amenities rests entirely on the awareness and the benevolence of developers. Although we do see that in some areas thought has been given to cater for the needs of these special people, these are exceptions rather than the rule.

The House Buyers Association (HBA) would like to urge government agencies concerned with regulating buildings and other public amenities to take a serious view of such stipulated requirement. They should ensure that all development projects submitted for approval conform to the requirements for the provision of  facilities for special people.

Housing developers that develop residential units and other non-public buildings should be mindful of the existence of the special people in our midst. Although the By-Laws presently do not stipulate such requirements for non-public buildings, they should take it upon themselves to provide such facilities.

Special people should be accorded all the encouragement and provided with all the facilities to allow them to lead their lives as independently and as normally as possible. Right from the planning stages of any project, be it residential or commercial, there should be adequate provisions for their special needs.

The sad part of the matter is that more often than not, appeals to consider the needs of the special people fall on deaf ears. This is particularly so when it involves additional costs.

HBA would like to appeal to the government to seriously consider legislating a mandatory requirement for the adequate provision of such facilities in all buildings and projects instead of confining such requirements only to buildings., "that can be visited by the public..." Such requirements should form an integral part in any town and/or housing plans. Projects omitting such features should not be approved.

Only then can we claim with a clear conscience that we have catered for the needs of our special people. And that will bring us a big leap forward in being a truly caring society.


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