Question, what do waterfalls and people with disabilities have in common? Answer, nothing… until Pertubuhan Pencinta Air Terjun Selangor’s (PPATS) super cool ultra awesome special project at Sungai Liam Waterfall, Ulu Yam came along! The what of super what special what sungai Yam cakes?
FINALLY! The first waterfall in Malaysia that people with disabilities can masuk and enjoy. How? By building a ramp into it!
What’s this project about? Is Malaysia OKU-friendly? Or is there a lot of work left to be done in that department? CILISOS spoke to Herbert Effendi Wong Abdullah, Chairman of the Pertubuhan Pencinta Air Terjun Selangor (PPATS) and Pastor Sia Siew Chin, Executive Director of Beautiful Gate Foundation to find out more.
So is Malaysia OKU-friendly?
“Very, very poor. Most of the places we can’t go. Actually there already is a law, that they have to be accessible to the disabled – public areas including walkways, shoplots… What we need are ramps, bars, tactile blocks, accessible toilets and enough space in corridors and walkways.” – Pastor Sia Siew Chin, Executive Director, Beautiful Gate Foundation
Who’s actually responsible for OKU facilities? None other than our local government, Pastor Sia told CILISOS. Last year, when MBPJ organised an event for OKUs on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, they revealed their plans to soup up Section 52, PJ to make it an OKU-friendly model to the rest of Malaysia. But just as we nod, clap and murmur in appreciation, a curve was thrown. The programme has been called off due to ‘internal technical glitches’. Tsk!
So what is this law thing that Pastor Sia mentioned? It’s the Uniform Building By-Law. But MBPJ has not been strict on enforcing it to make public facilities OKU-friendly and in fact, many shop owners are not aware of the ruling according to The Star. Bukit Gasing assemblyman R. Rajiv explained that while the council has the means to, shop owners might not.
Problem 1: No budget
Problem 2: Space constraints
“We can only go to certain places. Some of the places we can’t go to, people can carry or we have a van to take us around. Coz public transport is impossible so most of the time, we just spend most of our time at home.” – Pastor Sia Siew Chin, Executive Director, Beautiful Gate Foundation
What can we do to fix this? Hopefully MBPJ and shop owners can work together to install disabled-friendly facilities. And speaking of disabled-friendly facilities, we asked Herbert a little bit more about this waterfall project.
Why a waterfall for OKUs?
“There’s no waterfall that we can go to and we would like to have that opportunity to be closer to nature – to touch the water and everything. Rather than just watch the TV and look at pictures… can see, but cannot feel or touch.” – Pastor Sia Siew Chin, Executive Director, Beautiful Gate Foundation
And OKUs just like the rest of us want to experience nature as well so why shouldn’t they?
Building a ramp leading into the waterfall so that you can help people with wheelchairs in is genius and thoughtful! Who was the brain behind this brilliant idea? It was the NGO’s Exco team, Herbert told CILISOS.
“During our monthly campaigns at Sg. Liam waterfall, our adopted waterfall, when we have the budget, we would invite OKU people (the blind, deaf, people with autism, wheelchair-bound, etc.), old folks, orphans, orang asli and also underprivileged children to participate and have fun. We found that of all the OKUs, getting wheelchair-bound people in was the most challenging.” – Herbert Wong, Chairman, PPATS
Ehhh, we didn’t know this NGO ran activities for the less fortunate too. We thought PPATS was all about waterfalls only.
Well, turns out they found a way to combine both. “We worked with Jabatan Kebajikan Malaysia. For NGOs, we have invited people from an old folks home in Ulu Yam. For a wheelchair-bound NGO, we collaborated with Beautiful Gates Foundation. They will also be directly involved in the design, and construction of all the facilities at the waterfall,” Herbert explained.
So how will PPATS build this? Well, first they’re gonna be importing architecture and technology from France. The company is called PHPower. And they’ll also be working with Blue Earth Society of Malaysia. “They have come to our waterfall and done some preliminary design works,” he elaborated.
Yeah, it’s a bit too technical for us too, so we’ll leave the engineering to the pros and wait for the finished product. When can we all drive to Sg. Liam Waterfall to cut ribbon? According to Herbert, they’re aiming to start the project somewhere in the first quarter of 2015 and hopefully be able to wrap it up 6 months after beginning. We’re counting the days already.
Chup! All this building, won’t it affect the waterfall’s environment?
When we asked Herbert about these concerns, he assured us there would be minimal impact to the waterfall and its surroundings because the NGO is trying to preserve, not destroy nature after all.
“We are doing the project phase by phase. Start off with basic facilities like toilets, surau, changing rooms, barbeque pits, gazebos, etc. Then only we’ll build the OKU ramp and pool. No trees will be cut down. We will build around the trees. The contractors will look into the river pollution issues. In fact, the environment will be further enhanced by us doing more tree planting and landscaping. So the change is for the greener and more eco-friendly with zero pollution,” he said.
And this is not PPATS’s first activity with this waterfall. Earlier in September the NGO along with Do Something Good and J.C. Jacobsen Foundation organised a gotong-royong of 80 volunteers to clean up the area.
Not only will the waterfall be getting a makeover, Herbert said that the project will also mobilise the locals and Orang Aslis in Ulu Yam, giving them employment as rangers.
How can I help PPATS build this ramp?
Such a big project, sure not easy right? How much is the bill? They don’t have a figure yet. As you guys can probably imagine, the amount will see-saw up and down throughout the process anyway. Right now PPATS is looking at different channels for funding, BUT maybe they won’t have to IF they got some help. So let us introduce you to the Paradise Malaysia Waterfalls Coffee Table Book.
Originally published in 1989 by the Jabatan Pengairan dan Saliran (which looks after our rivers and waterfalls), PPATS took the initiative with their blessing to publish an updated new version to raise funds for their OKU-friendly waterfall project.
“This book is certified by SIRIM Eco Label, which is printed with soya bean ink on FSC paper. This book also would be a good source of revenue for our NGO to be self sustainable.” – Herbert Wong, PPATS
Never thought you’d get so nerdily excited about a waterfall, eh? This must be like how Ross feels about dinosaurs!
So if you luv waterfalls and you luv helping out those who are less fortunate, you can show your support by buying the book. As Herbert mentioned, if PPATS manages to come up with enough money through the book sale, they won’t have to look to other channels for funding.
** We might be attending the 5th International Conference for the Accessible Tourism (ICAT) 2014 from 4 to 7 Dec 2014, so if we do we’ll write a follow up on this.