Mission Impossible Malaysia

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

Find a wheelchair friendly hotel in KL

Yeah, you’d think it would be easy right?

WRONG

After almost 21 years overseas I moved back to the UK at the end of last month. But I needed a few nights in a hotel after I left my apartment before flying out for good so I could tidy up any loose ends. So what better way to spend it than in 4* or 5* luxury.

But it took me more than month of searching and endless emails asking for photos of so-called accessible rooms to make a decision.

The hunt for hotel heaven began way back in January when I tried the Intercontinental. It was where I first stayed when I moved to KL in November 2005. It was the Nikko then but it seemed fitting to end my time in Malaysia where it all began.

I emailed asking for pictures of their disabled-friendly room. This came back:

I was not impressed (railings AGAIN) and moved swiftly along…

Next on the list: Traders. Nice view of the Twin Towers, great pool and bar.

 

Something here obviously got me excited, though looking at these pictures now I’m not sure why. But I was sufficiently interested to visit in person.

But glass walls prevented me from even getting close to either shower or toilet. Had to scratch that too.

Third on my list: Hilton Doubletree. It’s in sight of my home. What could possibly go wrong?

I emailed the hotel. Could they put in some additional equipment (like extra railings or a commode shower chair?)

Yes they could for the shower chair, including a photo of the same chair I had at home.

showerchairhilton

Finally I was getting somewhere.

But what about a commode for the toilet?

Ma’af (sorry) ma’am, tak boleh. (we can’t)

So three strikes, but I wasn’t prepared to quite say out. Just moving on again.

Early February was the Renaissance

The toilet was passable, but like the Intercon – the shower area offered a micro seat and…. join the chorus…. not enough railings. Not really any railings of use. And this was the hotel’s newly renovated disabled friendly room.

When I pointed out I could not stand and the installed railing was too high and too far away from the seat to be of use, the hotel did offer me a chair to be closer to it. But still missing the point of the railing being too high.

I didn’t dismiss it but it was not 100%. There was still time to check more.

But I was getting desperate. I’d booked the shippers, had my flight and cancelled the satellite tv.

Where was I going to stay? Surely it couldn’t be that hard?

In quick succession I contacted the NovotelPullmanG Tower, and the Mandarin hotels.

It wasn’t good.

The showers, clockwise from top left:

Common thread: Not enough railings. What about the toilets?

L-R: Novotel, Pullman, Mandarin and G Tower.

Common thread: Not enough railings (again) Sigh (again)

I dismissed the Novotel straight away, the whole bathroom space being too small. Ditto G Tower and The Pullman, even though their toilet did have two railings. Their shower area however did not look particularly accessible so dismissed that option. So my final option of the four was the Mandarin. I emailed with suggested pictures of what would work for me, but they couldn’t help.

Where would I stay? Time was running out…

This wasn’t sleepless in Seattle. More bedless in K-helL….

Surely there was a room in the city that could meet my needs?

The Ritz to the rescue

(aka there is a God)

I’d been speaking to Radhika, the Reservations manager, since mid February. Their facilities weren’t perfect but they had a toilet with two railings and promised me a shower chair – which was really a commode but I could live with that.

We’d been playing email tag trying to find a solution. Then I had a moment of inspiration. Could Hilton Doubletrees loan their shower chair to the Ritz?

Hotels might be rivals for guests but inter-hotel hospitality? Surely can? Malaysia Boleh, (Malaysia can) as residents of Malaysia are so frequently told.

Sorry tak boleh. No. Malaysia Cannot.

The Hilton politely declined.

I booked the Ritz anyway. We’d figure it out. Time was up.

When I finally checked in and got to my room disaster loomed. The two railings either side of the loo were too far apart. Standing up? Tak boleh.

Oh bol@**#!!

Ok lets use the commode for what it’s meant to used for and we’ll switch it round for the shower in the morning.

I slept on it and the next day had another idea. Could, would, the hotel buy a proper shower chair like the one the Hilton and I had?

After a bit of checking with the boss Radhika came back to me. Yes we can! One chair safely delivered while I celebrated my birthday with some friends nearby.

So five days of being pampered by the staff and the wonderful Butler service ladies (Jelena, Abigail, Amy and Sin Yee) and I checked out with a tear in my eye.

jelenaabigail.jpg

Farewell Malaysia

farewell

Next stop London.

 

 

Disabled in… government

Quick quiz

stairs

The stairway pictured here leads to:

A: Heaven

B: An open bank vault with $10 million inside

C: The disabled toilet

Sadly to neither A or B. Simply C

Feeling mad?

Disappointed?

Or just resigned?

I took this photo at a fairly new Malaysian government office block in Cyberjaya last week trying to collect a new visa.

Under Malaysian planning laws all new buildings are meant to have accessible facilities.

And indeed the Expat Service Centre did have a disabled loo (with all the vagaries of what meets Malaysia’s definition of acceptable as opposed to accessible)

Problem was the architects forgot about the ACCESS part!!!

Good job there were two burly security guards around to carry me up the steps.

And check out the vehicle entrance here. No lower section in the kerb way from the vehicle entrance either. Guess disabled people aren’t really welcome at all.

bikes.jpg

What kind of message does this send? Malaysia signed up to the  ‘Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asia-Pacific Region’ in 1994.

It followed up with the ‘Persons with Disabilities Act’ in 2008 which was designed to iron out the inequalities between the able bodied and disabled community. But it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

Accessibility has got stuck in a quagmire of legislation between the Town and Country Planning act, the Street Drainage and Building Act which is interpreted under the Uniform Building Bylaws and then there’s an amendment which meant that new buildings have to meet the ‘Malaysian Standard Code of Practice on Access for Disabled Person’ and existing buildings have 3 years to comply or face fines.

BUT while the Malaysian Standard code of practice was introduced in 2003 buildings are NOT required to comply under the Uniform Building Bylaws.

So guess what happens with all this conflicting legislation?

Sweet FA.

At a MATEC 2014 science conference it was noted that understanding the concept of Universal Design, i.e. access for all type of society, was still low in Malaysia.

Yathink?

My report card reads: Should do better