Not uncommon in Southeast Asia, the sidewalks in Kuala Lumpur leave much to be desired in the realm of wheelchair accessibility. This article will prepare you for what to expect, and offer some recommendations for overcoming the barriers to accessibility in the city.
As with most major cities, the situation varies – with some areas of the being very accessible, while others are significantly inaccessible. I am pleased to report that the local government is repaving sidewalks and installing curb cuts throughout the city, but that work will take time.
In areas where curb cuts do not exist, wheelchair users will have no choice but to enter the roadway. Active roadways are dangerous, and I recommend that you exercise extreme caution when doing so. It goes without saying that rolling a wheelchair in the street is a very bad idea at night. Be careful.
When I took my wheelchair into a street, I rarely had to remain there for more than 1-2 blocks. In all, I would estimate that usable curb cuts were present at about 75%-80% of street crossings and intersections that I approached. Some sidewalks are multi-level, and I recommend you keep your wheelchair on the route closest to the street.
Here is a photo of one of the more recently design sidewalks and curb cuts:
My power wheelchair had no trouble passing between the two posts flanking the curb cuts pictured in the photo above. This particular street crossing was lined with paving bricks. The design of sidewalks and crosswalks is not uniform – many were standard street pavements, others cement and some were paved with cobblestone.
This brand-new sidewalk was a head-scratcher – the curb cut was nicely designed, but it was barricaded with a chain. This did not appear to be a temporary installation.
Apart from the frustrating times where a sidewalk was blocked, in disrepair or lacked a curb cut – I was able to get around Kuala Lumpur without much difficulty. Compared to other cities in Southeast Asia, I would say that the accessibility of Kuala Lumpur’s transportation and pedestrian infrastructure is “ahead of the pack.”