This Malaysian Wants To Make KL Accessible For People With Disabilities & Needs Your Help

IncluCity by NakSeni is an inclusive crowdsourced map for accessible, safe venues and spaces.

Cover image via Armani Shahrin (Provided to SAYS)

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Meet Armani Shahrin, the founder of NakSeni, who is working towards making Malaysia more inclusive for people with disabilities (PWD)

Armani Shahrin (left), with her sister Izzati, posing in front of Izzati's artworks.

Image via Armani Shahrin (Provided to SAYS)

Along with two friends, Armani is seeking help to launch IncluCity, an app that would crowdsource locations that are disabled-friendly, accessible, and safe.

Speaking to SAYS, Armani said cheekily, "I tell everyone that Izzati, my sister, is my boss, since this all started with her." Izzati is an artist, who is also autistic and has Down syndrome.

With a background in the arts and events industry, Armani launched NakSeni during lockdown to gain income for Izzati and her friends, as nobody was able to host events and pop-ups during that time. NakSeni promotes and sells the artworks of people with disabilities, as well as organising events and meet-ups for the community.

"Before the lockdown, we used to host a big event every December on International Day of Disabled Persons, where we invite artists from various disabled communities to celebrate and showcase their talents at WE & I Artfest.

"One of the toughest challenges we had was identifying a suitable venue that can cater to all. It got to a point where we had to make a place accessible by adding ramps, which then inspired the venue to continue providing accessibility to PWD attendees," Armani explains.

NakSeni promotes and sells art products, and hosts events for the PWD community.

Image via Armani Shahrin (Provided to SAYS)

But it was one specific moment that really pushed Armani to make a change

"I was in KL recently with my friend Miza, who is a wheelchair-user, we had the most difficult time trying to just cross the street to find a place to eat. It was an unpleasant experience for us. We were triggered and all the stories of her (unnecessary) struggles came out," says Armani.

Together with Armani's friend, Nurul, the women discussed and vented the struggles that PWD face on an everyday basis.

"That was the start of us co-founding IncluCity. We met up with some PWD youths and ran excursions to validate the idea and now we are working towards building it for the public," explains Armani.

Downtown KL has many areas that are inaccessible and dangerous for wheelchair-users.

Image via Armani Shahrin (Provided to SAYS)

"The idea of IncluCity came when NakSeni started doing more activities and events, we encountered the same issue and thought that we don’t want to be the only ones advocating for accessibility, why not spread it to everyone else?" shares Armani

From left to right: IncluCity founders - Nurul, Miza, and Armani.

Image via Armani Shahrin (Provided to SAYS)

IncluCity by NakSeni is an inclusive crowdsourced map for accessible, safe venues and spaces.

Armani, Nurul, and Miza hope that by raising awareness, increasing accessibility will not only benefit the PWD community, but also senior citizens, families with small children, and those who may have temporary or situational disabilities.

The idea is to allow the public to share their information on places and locations that are accessible to people with physical disabilities. That way, it's easier and safer for people to visit places that can cater to their needs, cutting out the frustration that often comes with trying to enter an establishment that has no facilities to accommodate mobility aids such as a wheelchair.

A NakSeni event that invites the PWD community to come together.

Image via Armani Shahrin (Provided to SAYS)

In addition to helping the PWD community get verified information on accessibility, thus allowing them to enjoy downtown KL, IncluCity also hopes their initiative will inspire business owners to make a change

Many business owners lack exposure and awareness of the struggles the PWD community faces, and may not even realise the importance of making their venues accessible.

As a result, both businesses and the PWD community lose out. Businesses miss the opportunity to cater to new customers, as well as hiring people with disabilities. Meanwhile, people with disabilities are unable to even enter many places, venues, restaurants, shops, and so forth.

Here are three ways IncluCity will make a positive change for everyone:

1. Create a map of accessible venues and spaces

With IncluCity, users can easily get current and verified information on how safe and accessible a venue is, so they can travel independently with confidence.

Users will be able to both provide information and get information.

Image via Armani Shahrin (Provided to SAYS)

2. Include accessibility ratings per listed venue

The rating system in their database helps businesses learn more about how to better accommodate for the PWD community.

The handy ratings will allow users to have a clearer idea of the venues they select.

Image via Armani Shahrin (Provided to SAYS)

3. Add a list of resources

The list will provide access to educational articles and tools for the public, as well as a list of PWD-friendly businesses and partners. This way, everyone can learn more together.

Everyday problems that people with disabilities face may no longer be an issue with IncluCity.

Image via Armani Shahrin (Provided to SAYS)

This is just the first step, as Armani has bigger plans ahead to cater to all individuals with both physical and hidden disabilities

"I was inspired by the Unlimited Fest in UK where they had not only catered to wheelchair-users but even the deaf community, with live audio-captioning using stenographers," Armani tells SAYS.

"We even practised descriptive introductions to include the blind community as well. I know Malaysia has the capabilities to do things like this because we already have corporates and private companies providing it, but it is not enough. It needs to be normalised," she adds.

A lack of wheelchair ramps in downtown KL are a huge issue for wheelchair-users who just want to enjoy the city.

Image via Armani Shahrin (Provided to SAYS)

In order for IncluCity to become a reality, Armani needs your help to vote for her initiative!

IncluCity has been shortlisted as one of the eight finalists for Think City's Creative KL Urban Challenge. If they win, they'll receive funding to build the platform.

This is your chance to help create a more accessible and inclusive Kuala Lumpur! Click here to vote for IncluCity now.

With your help, Malaysia could take a step closer to normalising inclusivity

When asked what an accessible Malaysia looks like to her, Armani replied, "I would love for Malaysia to normalise inclusivity by normalising sign language in schools, better infrastructure in our public transport and spaces, there's so much we can do but it all boils down to the mentality of the public."

"Usually, the people I meet who can relate to our initiatives, either has a family member or friend who is in the PWD community, or is PWD themselves. Anyone else outside that circle not exposed to the PWD community will usually look awkward and try to hide it when I talk about PWDs," she adds.

"The ones who emphatise, will want to learn and get to know more, but the ones who have fear tend to run away and avoid acknowledging it as if it's contagious or something. This is exactly why we host excursions and activities for the public to mingle with our community," Armani concludes. 

Do your part to help the PWD community feel safe and have access to downtown KL by voting for IncluCity here

If you're interested to collaborate or support IncluCity, fill up the form via the same link and click on "Support Project".

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