CHRISTMAS may be ten days away.
But for people with disabilities (PWDs) in the country, Santa seems to have already crawled down their chimneys early for them – at least as far as good tidings are concerned!
Four representatives of disability groups – including me – made a special visit to the Ministry of Women, Family and the Community Development in Jalan Dato Onn, Kuala Lumpur last week.
We went there to meet personally with the Minister Datuk Seri Sharizat Abdul Jalil.
We had some pressing issues confronting PWDs in our society today to urgently discuss with her.
The national NGOs from KL were: The Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association (Petpositive), Malaysian Parkinson’s Disease Association (MPDA) and Dyslexia Association of Malaysia (PDM).
The fourth group was the Selangor and KL-based Independent Living and Training Centre (ILTC) from Rawang.
Although Sharizat was late for our appointment because she was held up in Parliament, she wasted no time to get down to listening to requests.
She personally led us through the passageway to her meeting room. We were touched that she herself literally opened the doors for our wheelchairs – a sign of the positive things (“opening of doors”) to come at the meeting.
Although they were others waiting to see her, she never hurried us. Instead she quickly fished out her pen and notebook and noted down all that we had to say together with her department officials.
Here’s what we told the Honourable Minister:
- Please get all the local councils (PBTs) everywhere to set up disability committees: This is the only way for significant and positive changes to happen for all disabled persons (OKU) in the country.
Currently there are building bylaws in every state of the nation that requires accessibility for PWDs. However, many PBTs choose to ignore them.
The OKU committee will serve as a driving force for each council to build a disabled friendly environment both inside and outside buildings.
They must represent the full category of PWDs from the blind, people with learning disabilities or their representatives to the blind, Deaf and of course, physically disabled.
They must meet at least once a month if it is to be effective. It is only after pavements are made accessible to wheelchairs and buildings that disabled Malaysians can successfully hold jobs.
They wouldn’t have to travel far to get to them. Children in wheelchairs can also go to schools and be educated instead of becoming a burden to society later on in life.
The Minister had no problem in supporting our point. In fact she reiterated our view by saying that it is only right that PWDs be involved in decision-making processes that involve us.
She even went on to say that “able-bodied people know nuts about the handicapped – and that’s why the disabled’s participation is vital.”
She promised us that the Ministry will start a campaign as soon as possible to get PBTs to set up the special committees. It will start with a major seminar for all PBTs next year.
Meanwhile, head of local councils in Selangor Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew when met earlier by a representative of the same group said he would be sending a directive to all 12 PBTs in the state to set up disability technical groups.
A “starter kit guide” on how to do this is currently being prepared by a town planning expert. It is expected to be handed over to Liu within the next couple of weeks.
MBPJ is currently the only local council in Selangor, and possibly the whole country, to have an active disability committee that meets once a month.
- Please register People with Parkinson’s disease (PwP) as PWDs: Currently PwP can’t qualify for welfare cards and can’t get free treatment.
Sharizat said her ministry will urgently discuss the matter for approval with the Ministry of Health. Once that is given, the event will be launched early next year.
- Other issues: The Minister will look into improving the quality of lives of people with learning disabilities especially in care homes and centres through the coordination of the Ministry of Special Education and Welfare.
She will also look into offering help for the profoundly disabled to get assistance from foreign workers. In some countries, the government pays for the services of caregivers of tetraplegics.
Finally, a special committee will be set up to study ways on how to protect the elderly from abuse and neglect in the family based on the laws in Singapore that allows for court action.
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