Friday, December 29, 2006

New railroad cars offer little benefit for disabled

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Friday, Dec 29, 2006

A tryout of newly imported used railroad cars from Japan on Thursday resulted in frustration for about 200 disabled persons and their relatives.

"Four people had to help me to get into the car, so I think I am not going to use this train," said Endang Purwaningsih from Bukit Duri, South Jakarta.

"We don't want people to have to carry us onto the train every time. What we need are proper facilities so that we can help ourselves," she added.

The tryout -- a round trip from Gambir to Bogor station and back again -- was organized by the Handicapped Care Community (Kopetunda) and state railway company PT Kereta Api for disabled people from Greater Jakarta.

The company's Greater Jakarta region spokesman, Akhmad Sujadi, promised to improve the facilities for disabled people next year.

He said the government was replacing all the railroad cars in Greater Jakarta with 160 used cars from Japan. Each car costs Rp 800 million. To date, 44 coaches have arrived in Jakarta.

Of the 68 railroad stations in Jakarta, he said, only Gambir, Pasar Senen in Central Jakarta and Kota in West Jakarta were accessible to the disabled.

"We need to figure out the number of disabled who regularly use train services and then arrange facilities for them. For the time being, our officers will help disabled people anytime they need it," said Akhmad.

Meanwhile, Indrayant from Kopetunda said that the government's lack of awareness of disabled people's rights seemed to be never ending. He said he doubted the veracity of the pledge made by the railroad company to improve access for the disabled at railroad stations in Jakarta.

Even Gambir station, Indrayant pointed out, lacked minimum standards for the disabled, such as special toilets, escalators, ticket booths and special parking spaces for the disabled.

"It's not about the number of disabled that need the service, it's about their rights as human beings," said Indrayant.

Abdul Rauf, a disabled man who participated in the trial run, doubted whether the campaign would be successful.

"I have participated in campaigns like this before and nothing happened afterwards," he said.

A frequent traveler to Bandung, West Java and Surabaya, East Java, Abdul said that only the main stations in the two cities were relatively accessible to the disabled as their platforms were level with train floors.

Noted psychologist Sartono Mukadis, who is confined to a wheelchair due to illness, said that the lack of equal access to public facilities clearly demonstrated the nation's lack of empathy.

"As a nation we are so cruel to our minorities, not only the disabled but also other kinds of minorities such as ethnic and religious minorities. We say we are religious nation. But China is not a religious nation, so why are they so concerned about people with disabilities," asked Sartono.

Data from the World Health Organization shows that 10 to 12 percent of the world's population, or more than 600 million people, have some form of disability. Some 80 percent of them are living in poor countries. It is estimated that only two percent of people with disabilities enjoy adequate access to basic needs. (02)

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