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Monday, January 29 2007 | news | world | hotline | opinion | showbiz | cache | sports | NSTP |
Getting to grips with disability
by SANGEETHA NAIR
Imagine waking up one day and finding that you can’t move your legs. Your whole world comes crashing down.SANGEETHA NAIR finds out how the disabled are coping.
You are taken to the hospital and doctors tell you that you have suffered a stroke and would not be able to use your leg again.
What would you do? Disability can strike anyone.
You don’t have to be born disabled.
It can happen after an accident, a stroke or an illnesses such as polio.
After undergoing counselling and training on how to live independently, you are empowered and ready to face the world.
But suddenly, you realise that things are not as rosy as you had imagined.
Your daily expenses have increased.
You now have to pay for extra medication and a wheelchair.
Travelling is literally a pain.
You can no longer take the bus or train so you rely on taxis for a while until you learn how to drive a disabled-friendly car, if you can afford it.
You are unemployed for a while and blow your savings in no time.
It’s fine if you are single as you can live on biscuits and instant noodles until you find a job.
But what if you’re married with children? How are you going to provide for them? You frantically go through the newspapers and the Internet for vacancies.
There are a few desk-bound jobs you qualify for.
So you pick up the phone and set dates for interviews.
As soon as the interviewer sees you, he tells you that the job might not be suitable for you even before looking at your resume.
This is what the disabled deal with in real life.
Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association (PETPOSITIVE) president Anthony Thanasayan said many disabled people go into depression after finding it hard to cope with discrimination.
“Some try to commit suicide and there are those who become drug addicts.
It is very important for society to change its mindset,” said the 47-year-old who was born disabled.
Anthony said with the high cost of living, it is crucial for a disabled person to have a job.
“Government departments should set an example by offering jobs to the disabled.
Many of us are willing to do any job.
Even making tea is a job,” he said.
“Government servants who are in the service line should also be given training on how to deal with the disabled so that they are more sensitive to our feelings.”
He also said that majority of the disabled are poor and not very educated.
“Many of us can’t go to school due to lack of facilities.
Schools are not disabled friendly.
Not all classrooms are on the ground floor.
We can’t be going up the stairs in our wheelchair,” he said.
Former TV personality Ras Adiba Radzi, who heads the Kuala Lumpur Hospital Special People and K9 Members Rehabilitation, agreed that a lot has to be done to improve the quality of living for the disabled.
“Many buildings are not accessible to us.
Some have no wheelchair ramps, some have either no parking or very few parking lots for the disabled,” she said.
Relating her personal experience, Ras said: “We can’t even use the toilets in some buildings as they are too small.
Once we get in with our wheelchair, the door won’t close.”
She said that she was one of those refused entry by a security guard when she went for a job interview.
“It was frustrating.
There was a sign at the guard house saying that there was a vacancy but the guard refused to let me in,” she said.
Both Anthony and Ras want society to give the disabled a chance to live normal lives.
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