IT’S TIME to say, “So long” to another incredible year almost gone by before welcoming a brand new one this weekend.
Thank you 2010 and to all of you - readers of Wheel Power - for making it possible.
Here’s a look back at some of the most exciting and memorable moments of this column.
I started the year by writing about the first anniversary of the death of my Rottweiler named Vai, who had succumbed to cancer.
He was truly my hero as a personal service dog. Even now, nearly two years after his passing, I still miss him dearly.
The wonderful canine was chiefly responsible in helping me turn my life around – one from endless depression to positive living.
With his uncanny ability, he taught me everything I know about disability.
“Never let anyone put you down in your wheelchair,” was what he taught me during his 13-years years of living with me.
In his eyes anyone in a wheelchair was the “normal” human being – not those walking on two's.
Just for the record, why do we use the word “normal”, by the way, when we refer to non disabled people?
People with disabilities are just as “normal” as the next person, except that we happen to sit in a wheelchair.
Vai turned out to be the best psychiatrist, rehabilitation specialist and best friend that I ever needed to get on with life.
2010 brought about a couple of dramatic and noteworthy “about turns” that leave a wonderful lesson to all of us.
The first was a protest held by a dozen handicapped people earlier this year at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) building in Kuala Lumpur.
We were mad over an incident in which a MACC senior officer had directed a mocking remark at a lawyer in a wheelchair about his handicap.
The disabled said that if people can’t come up with something positive about them, then they just ought to keep their mouths shut because prejudiced remarks only brings about negativity.
We were surprised and most touched, however, when a swift apology was issued graciously by the MACC chief commissioner Datuk Abu Kassim Mohamed in a letter the next day.
Similarly, more recently, the Ipoh City Council (MBI) offered their apology when they accidentally shot dead a therapy dog named, “Spunk” belonging to an elderly woman.
Declaring that Spunk had taught everyone a lesson, they banned all dog-shooting in the city and promised to set up a canine committee to handle the stray dog problem.
In March, psychiatrist Dr Andrew Mohanraj shared with us that although mental illness had been recognised as a disability in 2009, there was still a great need to understand and offer unflinching support for people who have the condition.
One of the first steps in doing so is to educate ourselves about the disease.
The Malaysian Parkinson’s Disease Association in April made local history in Kuala Lumpur by signing a global declaration of People with Parkinson’s in front of 200 people, including their caregivers and supporters.
A few weeks ago Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil played an early Christmas Santarina by vowing that she would do everything she can to get PwP’s officially registered as people with disabilities.
This should happen by early 2011.
One of the chief reasons for this is so that the more than 15,000 PwP’s can qualify for free medical help.
As always, numerous horror stories about inaccessible buildings for wheelchairs always make it to the top headlines of this column each year.
The worse was at the welfare office at the ninth-floor of the Grand Seasons hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
Not only were the disabled toilets in the “Men”’s and “Women”’s too small and NOT with the right fittings but there was no door as well!
Only a miserable piece of plastic thick curtains acting as poor covers.
It was shocking how disabled persons visiting the welfare department had to put up with this for years!
Prompt action was taken however when it was highlighted in this column.
I visited the place again just before Christmas and yes, Santa had definitely been there!
Not only are both the toilets now large enough to accommodate wheelchairs but there is a beautiful sliding door for complete privacy when performing the most important jobs of all.
Syabas Grand Seasons and the KL Welfare Department!
Last, but not least, blind golf anyone?
Yam Tong Woo, 57, who suddenly became blind on both eyes within a week during his trip in China shared with us his amazing story of how he had to pick up the pieces of his life all over again after the incident.
Not only did the incredibly plucky gentleman manage to do it with the help of his family but he’s back to doing what he loves the most: play golf!
Just how on earth does he do it, you ask?
With the help of his wife who is his caddy.
Not only that, Yam was in Singapore during the last Raya holidays playing blind professional golf with some of the biggest sighted golfers in the business at the inaugural golf tournament called the Handa Singapore Classic.
So when people tell you that you can’t do something because you are disabled; don’t you ever believe it.
Just get out there and do it!
Happy 2011 everyone from Wheel Power.
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