Thursday March 3, 2011
Give due respect
By ANTHONY THANASAYAN
The rights of the disabled should never be compromised.
MORE than a dozen persons with disabilities met up with Selangor state executive councillor Dr Xavier Jayakumar on Monday.
They were there to hand over a memorandum calling for the promotion of a caring government and an end to all forms of discrimination against people with disabilities.
The move came about after attempts by the authorities to forcibly move five hawkers from the Taman Megah market in Petaling Jaya to another place. The stall-holders included the elderly and a wheelchair-bound woman.
The memo handover was undertaken by several organisations for the disabled with the support of NGOs.
The groups condemned the attempt to move the five hawkers as blatant discrimination against vulnerable groups, calling it a total mockery of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which guarantees equal opportunities in employment for the handicapped in Malaysia.
They expressed shock and outrage that such an incident had happened when the official protocol document had been signed by Malaysia and ratified last July.
The memorandum pointed out that the convention demanded not only accessibility for people with disabilities but also called for a paradigm shift in terms of attitude and approach towards them.
It radically shifted how people with disabilities are viewed – from objects of charity to being individuals with fundamental rights who are capable of making decisions for themselves, and who are active members of society.
The groups demanded an immediate end to the harassment of the stall-holders and that they be allowed to stay put in their spot unconditionally. They also called for a full investigation into those responsible for trying to get the disadvantaged hawkers out.
The disabled also took the opportunity to express what they wanted as citizens with disabilities.
> Please keep politics out: Slots designed for the handicapped and policies made for their benefit should be respected and protected so that no one can change them to suit their whims and fancies, or for their political gain.
> Special slots allotted to people with disabilities should always be located in the front where they are visible to everyone. They should also be given help to make a success of their businesses, especially when everyone knows that people with disabilities are at a disadvantage compared to others.
People with disabilities should not be hidden from society. They should not be required to use a different entrance at the back or the side of a building. Instead, they should have the use of the main entrance of a building that is accessed by the public.
Such affirmative action will safeguard the disabled person’s dignity and demonstrate sincerity in undertakings for the handicapped.
> Any decision affecting the disabled should actively involve the disabled themselves as they know best what is good, bad or unworkable for them. No politician, councillor or local council body has the right to make decisions for the disabled without consulting them, unless they are handicapped themselves.
> Educate the top brass: All ADUNs, politicians and even councillors should take it upon themselves to be educated on the rights and needs of the disabled and other marginalised communities.
The best way is to visit the handicapped in their homes or seek advice from the many NGOs in existence. Or better still, live in a home for the handicapped for at least a week – or try using a wheelchair or being blindfolded for seven days – to get an idea of what it is like to be in the shoes of the disabled.
This would greatly help them to stay focused on removing many of the unnecessary barriers in the paths of people with disabilities, and not add to them.
> The rights of minorities are just as important as the majority, and in some cases, the minorities deserve more attention.
> And never forget that disabled persons are voters, too. Their rights and needs should never be compromised for the benefit of the non-disabled. This is, without doubt, the hallmark of a caring government.
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