Thursday, October 21, 2010

Disabled Not Clear As To How The 2011 Budget Will Help Them

A budget for the disabled?
MALAYSIANS were all glued to their television and radio sets last Friday, listening in to the 2011 Budget speech delivered ‘live’ by Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Parliament.
Chong Tuck Meng from Bentong in Pahang was one of them.

The 50-year old was in bed at home where he usually spends much of his time since his accident 30 years ago whilst riding pillion on his best friend’s motorcycle.
The incident left him paralysed from his neck down – and not a scratch on his pal.   

Now as adviser – and founder – of an NGO called Perwira K9 with about 700 members nationwide with spinal injuries like himself, Chong thinks that the Prime Minister’s latest budget can help many handicapped Malaysians.    

“I was pleased to note that the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development have been allocated with RM1.2 billion in aid where 218 million will be used to assist some 80,000 disabled individuals,” says Chong.

“However, it was not stipulated as to how exactly will the money be used to help them,” he adds, pointing out that previous programmes organised by the Welfare Department that he attended had not done much to improve the quality of lives of the handicapped in the country other than ending up as major feasting occasions.

Chong also recalls in particular a pre-budget meeting that was called by the Ministry about six months ago.

“There were too many special focus groups involved and everyone seemed to be all over the place.

“There wasn’t enough time for real discussion so it was generally a rush-job. Some of the disabled groups that turned up didn’t seem to know what they want or was important so I don’t blame the Minister Datuk Seri Sharizat Abdul Jalil for getting a little disoriented and confused; if she did.”

Chong thinks that now that the Ministry has this special allocation for what seems like a noble mission, Sharizat should call for another meeting to fine tune on what is really important and what isn’t for now.

“The Ministry also should select some of the existing better NGOs with the people’s interest at heart and work closely with them in order to achieve the PM’s noble goals,” concludes Chong.         

Whilst Petaling Jaya resident Stanislaus Anthony, 61, was happy to see the increase in financial assistance to several quarters – including a 100% jump for Imams – he is disappointed why the disabled didn’t get an increment for their employment allowance from RM300 to at least RM500 a month.

“In fact, I was hoping that the PM would give ALL disabled Malaysians – whether blind, Deaf or in a wheelchair – a monthly allowance of RM500 across the board,” he says. 

“Frankly, it’s getting harder and harder to be a disabled person in Malaysia these days when employers don’t want to hire you because you are handicapped or you just can’t get out of the house because of the lack of public transport and accessibility,” Stanislaus laments.

“I think it is high-time that the authorities whose job it is to help the handicapped started changing their lofty ideas about us and zoom down to our level to see what our real problems are.

“As an individual who does my part to help other disabled people, I still have trouble getting wheelchairs for the poor.

“Just last week, a physically handicapped friend of mine was turned down financial aid because he had pay TV and a refrigerator.

“We still have hospitals like Universiti Malaya Medical Centre that treats you for free as an outpatient because of your disability card.

“But then it ignores it completely and charges you the sky if you get admitted.

“And let me also point out that many of the supposedly ‘free medication’ for the disabled as an outpatient is often out of stock in the hospital or ‘not covered’ by the hospital.”

Stanislaus has been disabled since 1988. Now with walking difficulties, he uses a walking stick and a wheelchair for mobility.

For Yam Tong Woo from Sungei Buloh, who suddenly lost his sight two years ago because of a bacterial infection, the recent budget was a bittersweet event. 

“The good news is the abolishment of sales tax on mobile phones and the waiver of import and sales tax on broadband equipment,” he writes via email.

“The blind will be better able to use technology to help them in finding jobs and making friends.

“However, many of the assistive and adaptive technology – as well as additional add-on requirements for ICT technology – to help them get online is still costly and sad to say, out of reach unless the government creates a subsidy on them.

“Broadband and telecommunication service providers should also be encouraged to reduce their costs to make their services affordable for blind Malaysians,” concluded the 57-year old Yam who is a former automotive engineer.

The End

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