Visiting Kuala Lumpur in a wheelchair: accessibility tips and advices
Kuala Lumpur is the first south-east Asia city where I have been rolling. I heard and read a lot that Malaysia is a challenging country for wheelchair users. So when we arrived we were a bit afraid to face accessibility issues. After a week in the Malaysian capital, I can tell you that it is true: Kuala Lumpur is not an easy destination. I faced many obstacles during my strolls in Kuala Lumpur streets. However public transports are very good compare to streets and sidewalks so it makes the journey easier.
If you arrive to Kuala Lumpur you will surely arrive at “Kuala Lumpur International Airport », also called « KLIA » and « KLIA2 » for the low cost terminal.
Everything went well when I landed at the airport. At the plane exit an airport staff member brought me my wheelchair then escorted me all the way through immigration and luggages claim until the airport main entrance. In the terminal there are ramps, elevators and wheelchair accessible restrooms which are large enough to be able to transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet easily.
The airport is located 45 minutes drive from Kuala Lumpur. A shuttle « KLIA Ekspres » can drive you from « KLIA » and « KLIA2 » to « KL Sentral Train Station » in the city centre. Franck and I didn’t take that shuttle but, according to the information I found, it is supposed to be wheelchair accessible. A one way ticket is 55MYR and a return ticket is 100MYR.
Streets and sidewalks
Accessibility is clearly not a priority in Kuala Lumpur. Depending the area, sidewalks have no curb-cuts, they are too steep or damaged. It is rare but sometimes you can find real wheelchair friendly curb-cuts.
Even if you know very well how to handle your wheelchair, getting on a sidewalk without a curb-cut seems to be impossible. Indeed sidewalks are 30 to 50cm high. Width varies depending on each sidewalk. Some are wide enough but it still might be complicated to roll on them: even if they are made of concrete or tiles, they can be strongly damaged. Plus, you could find scooters, streetlights or shops can display products on them. There are also many sewer grids on sidewalks.
Moreover a lot of pavements are damaged. Consequently the easiest way is to roll on the road. It could be a bit scary at the beginning as there are many cars but we get used to it quickly. Local people are understanding, do not honk and do their best to let a sufficient safe space between their cars and the wheelchair user.
As for the blind or near-blind people there are blind floor tiles on sidewalks and crosswalks to guide them but no sound signal.
Most of the time public transports are wheelchair accessible. Unfortunately the most complicated part will be to reach them because of streets and sidewalks I previously mentioned.
Rapid KL Monorail
The « Rapid KL » company handles most of Kuala Lumpur public transports. I used the monorail, meaning the aerial line (line 8). I noticed that it is a wheelchair friendly transport. There are wider ticket barriers for wheelchairs, lifts and boards informing that help can be provided if needed. Disabled people also have priority in some train wagons.
To get in a train there is a small gap between it and the quay. When I took the Monorail I only faced one problem: the wheelchair lift, installed to climb the stairs, was broken so I had to walk.
KL Hop-on / Hop-off Buses
During this week in Kuala Lumpur we mainly walk from one point to another but if you prefer to save time and avoid to get tired you can take Hop-on/Hop-off buses. These touristic buses stop at 23 different places covering main touristic attractions. They have ramps and wheelchair reserved spaces on board.
For an adult a 24 hours access costs 55MYR and a 48 hours access costs 95MYR. However disabled people pay children fees: 30MYR one way and 50MYR return. Tickets can be purchased in buses, online and sometimes in hotels.
KTM Komuter Train
When we came back from the Batu caves to Kuala Lumpur we rode a « KTM Komuter train ». Travelling in my wheelchair in that train was easy. In the train station there are lifts, ramps and platform are wide.
In the train there is plenty of space to park a wheelchair. But even if everything seems well conceived there is still a few things that could have been better. For example there is a large gap between the train and the quay so another person help is needed. Also the disabled restroom on the platform at Batu caves station was closed. Unfortunately this is a recurring problem in Malaysia: during my travel I often faced closed public disabled toilets.
Uber and Grab
You can also order an Uber or a Grab (its rival) to go from one point to another. To do so you will need the apps and some mobile data. Uber and Grab are very cheap in Malaysia, especially compare to taxis fares. It is still more expensive than public transports but as soon as you are two travellers the difference become insignificant. However some cars can be tiny. Franck and I always succeeded to ride in a Uber or a Grab but my wheelchair is foldable. If your wheelchair is not foldable or if you are travelling with an electric wheelchair it is not a good solution, even if it is possible to order bigger Uber cars (Uber XL). Nonetheless it will be necessary to transfer from the wheelchair to the car.
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