Thursday, June 09, 2011

Changes For The Disabled Through YB Ronnie Liu

SOME really good things are in store for people with disabilities in the country very soon.

For many of us who have had no choice but to put up all this while with society’s lack of concern for our basic needs as handicapped persons, we can finally take some comfort in knowing that we will all be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief at last.

On Tuesday, more than half a dozen persons with disabilities – me included – met at the state secretariat building in Shah Alam, Selangor.

We were there to hold our first meeting as a special team on a mission to help set up disability committees in all of the local councils in Selangor.

We were following up on the directive and idea that was mooted by Chairman of the Local Government, Study and Research Committee Ronnie Liu to get local councils to become proactive into looking into the needs of marginalised groups, namely the disabled and the elderly.  

It was strongly felt that unless Malaysians with disabilities were somehow actively participating with the various local councils, nothing positive was going to happen for their needs in towns and cities everywhere.

The all important meeting included people with a variety of handicaps.

There was a representative for the blind and the Deaf.

Notice how I decided to spell the word “Deaf” with a capital “D” instead of a small one?

This is because Deaf persons like many other disabled people wish to have a unique identity for themselves, rather than to be seen as a medical problem. 

There were also three representatives for the physically handicapped.

Although they all used wheelchairs, each of them was different.

One was paralysed from his chest down, another waist down, and the third a person with walking difficulties.

Inputs from each of these groups are vital as not everyone who uses wheelchairs have exactly the same needs.

One of the most forgotten groups among handicapped organisations are people with learning difficulties.

However, we made sure that a well-respected national society on Dyslexia was also present.    

Later on we plan on expanding the group.

We will be inviting people from other types of disabilities as well such as representatives with stroke, Parkinson’s disease and even mental illness.

All of the information provided by these groups are essential for our mission. They will help to give us a current, accurate and correct picture of what these specialised groups of people’s needs are.

Called the Disabled Technical Committee of Selangor, our quest has so far taken us to three councils: Shah Alam, Subang Jaya and Selayang.

Selayang was the first to set up a committee at once whilst the other two are still working on it.

All the councils received us warmly.

They appeared to be very happy to have our input.

Some of them even went as far as to admit that they frankly hadn’t done enough for the handicapped community in their areas.

And one council was very embarrassed to say that they didn’t even have one facility for the blind in their area.    

However, our objective is not to find faults with any of the councils.

Rather as experts on disability through our rich experiences of life, we only want to give them all the help that we possibly can to make our world a better world for Malaysia’s handicapped citizens.

The first step is to set up a monthly committee to look into the needs of the disabled. A meeting as regular as this will ensure that the handicapped are not forgotten by the councils.

Another important point is to give input on the plans they have for us. After all, it is our lives and needs that they are talking about and it is only right that we have our say in whatever that affects our lives.

But improvement does not only come from talking about our needs.

The purpose of the disability committee in the local councils is also to ensure that users of disability friendly facilities get to test them out first before they are launched.

Sadly very often we come across pathways that may be friendly to the blind with the tactile flooring and all but totally disregard wheelchair users and mothers with prams.

And it is not uncommon to come across toilets with a wheelchair logo on the door only to sadly discover that the facility can only be used if you are able to get out of your wheelchair because of the narrow doors.

It is for these numerous incidents why I would like to stress again why the participation of the disabled is absolutely important in every local council, not just in Selangor but throughout the country.

It is not only the most sensible thing to do but it is also our right as disabled Malaysians.

As the popular international saying by disabled persons go:

“Nothing about us, without us!” 
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1 comment:

felicity said...

Brilliant article Anthony. As you know in UK we put our disabled people first and have a lot of volunteers that work with all different groups of disabled people. Do you wat any info leaflets on all these disabilities when I come over from Uk in August. Lets hope that THIS TIME Malaysians actually mean what they say!!!!