The disabled continue to be marginalised at sporting events

Letter by Wong Ee Lynn

Malaysia may be a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and may have enacted the Persons With Disabilities Act 2008 (Act 685), but in reality, our laws, society and institutions fail to commit to the genuine inclusion of disabled individuals in all aspects of living.

At no time was this more evident to me than during the Liverpool FC vs Malaysian XI match on July 16, when I was not allowed to park at the designated parking space for the disabled, or even allowed to approach the entrance to allow my disabled friend to disembark from my car.

Our polite request for access to the parking space for the disabled was dismissed by the traffic police stationed around the National Stadium, and they told us in no uncertain terms that the disabled was not allowed to park in the stadium car park as the entire parking area was reserved for VVIPs and members of royalty.

The event management company personnel and traffic police shrugged off our questions with an air of impatience and insensitivity, and the unspoken message seemed to be that the disabled should know their own limitations and should not have come to watch a sport that they could not participate in.

We ended up having to park over 1km away in front of the Astro headquarters and had to walk to the National Stadium.

My friend was exhausted and in considerable pain and distress when we finally arrived.

To make matters worse, the designated seating area for the disabled was occupied by able-bodied spectators and I spent most of the match requesting the other spectators not to push my friend or stand in front of her.

During our walk back to our car after the match, we witnessed another spectator in a wheelchair attempt to manoeuvre his wheelchair along the uneven sidewalks and road shoulder as motorcyclists rode dangerously close to his wheelchair.

The official website of the National Sports Complex boasts of designated parking spaces and seating areas for the disabled, but this is mere tokenism as there is no sincere effort to ensure that the disabled have reasonable access to the said infrastructure, not when the disabled are barred from parking at the disabled parking zone and have to struggle to get a seat at the disabled seating area.

Malaysian society tries to pass itself off as a compassionate one, but it is, in essence, feudalistic.

When the need to impress the wealthy and powerful in our society overrides the safety needs and basic rights of our disabled citizens, we know we have a lot of soul-searching to do.