Monday, November 30, 2015

Let The Disabled Speak

My wish list on day celebrating disabled

People with disabilities (PWDs) will be celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Thursday.
It is a special day set aside by the United Nations since 1992 to highlight the concerns and rights of more than one billion disabled people around the globe – earning us the category of being the largest minority group in every society of the world.
As a person who has been disabled for more than half a century – and a wheelchair-user for nearly as long that period – here are some quick tips that I would like to share with my readers.

These are jottings from my trusty old scrapbook, which I have been keeping over the years and on my experience with being handicapped. I hope that it will prove helpful for both PWDs (especially new ones) and the able-bodied.
I am also targeting these points at doctors and healthcare workers – and anyone else who wants to know more about disability – and what needs to be done in order to make our world a better and more meaningful place.
They are listed in no particular order.
* If you are able-bodied, never refer yourself as “normal”. If that’s what you are, then what does that make us? “Abnormal?” “Alien?”
PWDs have been around since the beginning of time. Disability is a natural aspect of the human condition.
Use “non-disabled” instead. No need for dramatic and pretentious terminologies, such as “differently abled”, “physically challenged” or others.
For instance, why should we be more physically challenged or differently abled than the non-disabled?
They sound more alienating and confusing than being helpful.
I am comfortable with the word “disabled” for now, until we are able to coin up a better one.
The term, to me, means I am disabled by society’s negative attitude towards me by not providing for my needs and rights to function as a normal human being like the non-disabled.
In short, I have no problems with my physical condition or how I was born – only with the way people think about me and treat me.
* Can the able-bodied who work for the cause for the disabled please stop stealing our thunder? This seems to be happening over and over again, despite constant rhetoric from them that PWD should be authors of their own destiny.
Disability events organised by the government are still dominated by the able-bodied instead of PWDs.
If disabled people are featured, they are always the same faces – very successful persons who managed to make it to the top.
This is, unfortunately, not a true representation of the majority of disabled Malaysians in the country.
Can politicians (and ministers) at such events please stop hogging the microphones at the rostrums and sit back in your VIP seats and allow disabled Malaysians to speak instead?
No one likes to be talked down to all their lives, especially when you have no clue of what life is like when you are in a wheelchair or have to depend on a white cane to get around to support yourself and your family.
Our goal should be to give more opportunities to put PWDs in leadership roles so that they can be in charge of matters involving them.
Politicians, when you go to represent our country overseas in international disability events, please take along one or two disabled role models with you to showcase them to make our country proud.
And please make sure they are ordinary leaders selected from one of the many disabled organisations in our country who are trying hard to fight for other disabled people.
The exposure will not only help the disabled individuals grow in strength but also make an excellent public relations exercise.
* Dear local councils throughout the country: how long are you going to continue ignoring the rights of your disabled citizens in your area?
We all know that it is not the prime minister’s or minister’s job to create a disabled-friendly infrastructure in your respective local councils.
Please stop holding parties for the handicapped once in a while and feed them. Please set up a monthly technical committee on disability already.
Invite the disabled to sit with your expert engineers and town planning executives to tell you what they need, such as universal-designed pavements, disabled-friendly toilets, covered car parks for disabled drivers and more.   
Please be serious about your intentions. There is no time to lose – with more people becoming disabled every day through road accidents, illnesses and old age.
Once these facilities start popping up everywhere, your residents will praise you for your good work – both those with disabilities and those without.
Let’s all decide to make that qualitative change which is needed on this blessed week to empower our disabled community everywhere. – November 30, 2015.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.
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