AFTER recounting my accident of falling off the wheelchair while boarding the KLIA Transit in this column, I received an email from the CEO of Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd (ERL) Noormah Mohd Noor.
She apologised for the lapse in service delivery and slow implementation of the portable platform ramp. She requested for a meeting to share with me the measures the company has taken.
Prof Nazirah Hasnan, the deputy director of University of Malaya Medical Centre and consultant rehabilitation physician, accompanied me to the meeting. She is the first doctor I consulted when I moved to Kuala Lumpur in 2006. She has always been very supportive of initiatives to improve the lives of disabled people in terms of medical and social rehabilitation.
On Tuesday, we met with Noormah and senior vice president of marketing and sales management Yeow Wei-Wen at the office of ERL in KL Sentral. She briefed us on what has been done to assist wheelchair users in boarding and disembarking from the KLIA Transit efficiently and safely. On our part, we provided feedback and ways to improve the service for disabled passengers.
Among the measures that have been implemented are the provision of assistance at the platforms and deployment of portable platform ramps at all KLIA Transit stations at a later stage when the prototype that is currently being used is fully tested, and found to be safe and suitable.
One concern we brought up was whether the current ramp could withstand the weight of motorised wheelchairs, which could weigh up to 100kg by itself. Nazirah offered the resources of the hospital’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine to test the ramp with motorised wheelchairs and any other assistance that is necessary to ensure it is safe to use.
At the same time, Yeow informed us that they have ordered a foldable portable ramp like those used by the rail service in other countries. We were invited to evaluate its suitability when it arrives. That settled the issue I faced at KL Sentral.
We moved on to discuss about the provision of assistance at the KLIA station. While there is little risk of casters falling into the narrower gap and therefore no need for a ramp, porters need proper training in wheelchair handling.
They need to be trained to pop a wheelie to go over the kerbs at the entrance of the train. In their haste to help me board, they pushed my wheelchair into the kerb a number of times. The abrupt stoppage nearly caused me to fall off the wheelchair.
For this, I have proposed Disability Equality Training and Disability-Related Services Training to equip all their customer-facing staff with proper etiquette and skills in assisting disabled passengers. Safe wheelchair handling is not difficult if one has learnt the basic skills.
We all agreed that it was a productive meeting. I am glad Noormah and Yeow took the time to explain to us what they have done and listened to our concerns. Many of the safety issues have been resolved or were in the process of being resolved. I feel more assured of my safety when taking the train now.
After the meeting, Yeow brought us to the KLIA Transit platform to have a better look at the ramp. I rolled in and out of the train with little effort. When properly done, it doesn’t cause any delay to the schedule. Most importantly, there is no longer any fear of having my casters falling into the gap or hitting the kerbs.
I gave the ramp a thumbs up after using it over a period of several days although I wished it had been done earlier before I fell. There is a need to be more proactive all round. We shouldn’t wait for accidents to happen before acting.
I also filed a complaint with the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) regarding the accident. Unfortunately, the reply from SPAD left much to be desired. Even though I am more or less satisfied with the measure taken by ERL, I had expected SPAD to look into other safety aspects for disabled passengers.
Other than telling me the obvious, that the CEO of ERL has apologised and that a portable ramp was available to ease the passage of wheelchair users, there was no information on further investigations.
I was not expecting them to take any punitive action against ERL. The least they could have done was to check if there was any more outstanding safety issues and additional measures that could be implemented. The reply led me to believe they have done nothing other than relaying what they were told by ERL.
In fact, SPAD was already well aware of the issues as they were copied in my first and subsequent emails to ERL. Disappointingly, no action was taken earlier. I guess they were waiting for me to lodge an official complaint directly.
This slipshod response gave me very little confidence in the effectiveness of SPAD as a regulating body in ensuring the interests of public land transport consumers, more so disabled people as we still face big hurdles when using public transport.
Nevertheless, I am glad my bad experience has resulted in positive outcomes. There are a few less barriers for me to contend with now. Riding the train is fun again. The station staff have learnt to deploy the ramp properly. I can now wheel in and out without a hitch. That is all I have been asking for.
I am also thankful for having a doctor like Nazirah. Other than accompanying me to the meeting, she sent a message earlier to check on my condition when she found out I fell. When the pain became unbearable a few days later on an early Sunday morning, she arranged for me to have it examined at the Trauma and Emergency Department. Luckily, the doctor found no serious injury except for some soft tissue swelling.