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BAKTI – MIND Conference Empowering PWDs With ICT

December 11th, 2005 - Sunday

Programme book and my name tag for the 1st BAKTI - MIND Conference.
Programme book and my name tag for the 1st BAKTI – MIND Conference.

The 1st BAKTI – MIND Conference on ICT for People With disabilities was an eye-opener. Expert speakers from Australia and Singapore presented a range of electronic gadgets that could potentially help people with various types of disabilities. Speakers and facilitators were from Malaysia, Australia and Singapore.

Dato' Dr. Zaliha briefing staff of MIND one day before the conference.
Dato’ Dr. Zaliha briefing staff of MIND one day before the conference.

MIND is the brainchild of Dato’ Dr. Zaliha Omar who had envisioned a resource website for all forms of disabilities that is truly Malaysian. She is the Honorary Consultant and Project Leader of MIND and was instrumental in organizing and managing the conference and the day to day administration of this project. This has now become a reality. The MIND website is still not complete. It never will be as information, technologies and treatment options are dynamic and will always be changing. Nevertheless, Malaysians with disabilities are now able to get information that are suited to our needs.

Group photo of the speakers, facilitators and participants of the 1st BAKTI - MIND Conference.
Group photo of the speakers, facilitators and participants >
of the 1st BAKTI – MIND Conference.

MIND seeks to empower Malaysians with disabilities and their families to enhance their quality of life through having access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) related to healthcare, rehabilitation, education, employment, adaptive technologies and equipments, transportation, barrier-free environment, independent living and many more.

Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah opening the 1st BAKTI - MIND Conference.
Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah opening the 1st BAKTI – MIND Conference.

This project is fully funded by BAKTI and under the patronage of Tun. Dr. Siti Hasmah who is the Chairman of the Board of Administration for Bangunan Bakti Siti Hasmah. A BAKTI Committee in turn oversees the MIND Project. Toh Puan Datuk Dr. Aishah Ong is the Chairman of this Committee together with Datin Noorhayati Kamaluddin as Secretary and Datin Seri Wendy Ong as Treasurer.

Victor Liew, webmaster of MIND, and Puan kamariah at the 1st BAKTI - MIND Conference.
Victor Liew, webmaster of MIND, and Puan Kamariah at
the 1st BAKTI – MIND Conference.

Here is a list of the Speakers and Workshop Facilitators:
Dato’ Dr. Zaliha Omar (Malaysia), Rehabilitation Physician and Honorary Consultant & Project Leader for MIND
Dr. Ramlah Sulaiman (Malaysia), Chief Rapporteur of 1st BAKTI – MIND Conference
Dr. Ow Chee Chung (Singapore), Executive Director of the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD)
Michael O’Leary (Australia), Occupational Therapist and Managing Director of Spectronics, a company dealing with assistive technologies for people with disabilities
Tan Chuan Hoh (Singapore), Senior Occupational Therapist with SPD
Sarah Yong (Singapore), Senior Speech Therapist with SPD.
Liew Chee Keong (Malaysia), MIND Webmaster
Chalapathy R.H., (Malaysia), IT Management Consultant
Moses Choo (Malaysia), IT Officer for the Malaysian National Council for the Blind
Barnabas Lee (Malaysia), Low Vision Assistant at Malaysian Association of the Blind
Anthony Chung (Malaysia), Secretary of YMCA Deaf Club
Anne Laura (Malaysia), ICT Administrator of YMCA Kuala Lumpur
Eugene Lau (Malaysia), United Voice – self advocacy group for people with learning disabilities
Kamariah Mohd Amin (Malaysia), Down’s Syndrome Family Support Group
Peter Tan (Malaysia), Blogger

Dato' Dr. Zaliha explaining the working of the MIND Lab to Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah and other VVIPs from BAKTI
Dato’ Dr. Zaliha explaining the working of the MIND Lab
to Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah and other VVIPs from BAKTI.

Participants of the conference were exposed to the various assistive devices for people with learning disabilities, low vision, hearing impairment and physical disabilities. Where such technologies are concerned, Malaysia is still way behind Australia and Singapore. This conference has created an awareness of the availability of such devices. The benefits far outweigh the prohibitive costs of such devices in helping people with disabilities manage their daily living activities, communication and interaction with their surroundings.

Dr. Ow of the Society for the Physically Disabled speaking at the 1st BAKTI - MIND Conference
Dr. Ow of the Society for the Physically Disabled
speaking at the 1st BAKTI – MIND Conference.

Dr Ow and I also had a brief conversation regarding the accessible toilet brouhaha in Singapore. He explained that his answer to the media was taken out of context. What happened was that his statement was selectively extracted to suit the slant of that article, which made it as if his organisation supported the unprohibited use of accessible toilets in Singapore. We both agreed that the particular entry was rude, offensive and uncalled for. We also agreed that if all toilets adopt a universally accessible design, there may no longer be a need to reserve one for wheelchair users only.

Table setting that put me sitting beside Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah at the opening of the 1st BAKTI - MIND Conference.
Table setting that put me sitting beside Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah
at the opening of the 1st BAKTI – MIND Conference.

That was my first taste of a conference. This event owed it success to group of part-timers and volunteers who made sure everything was in order. I know for certain Dato’ Dr. Zaliha spent many sleepless nights befoe and during the conference to complete the necessary work. Within those seven days, I had a learnt many things and met many more people who have an interest in disability issues. Most notably is Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah whom I had the privilege to sit beside with during brunch at the opening of the conference on Monday. We talked on some of the issues that people with disability are facing.

Toh Puan Datuk Dr. Aishah Ong helping me into her car. Beside her is Din the chauffer.
Toh Puan Datuk Dr. Aishah Ong helping me into her car.
Beside her is Din the chauffer.

Toh Puan Datuk Dr. Aishah Ong arranged my daily transportation. She arranged to pick me up from and dropped me off at the hotel where I was staying for the entire duration of the conference. Together with Datin Seri Wendy Ong, Toh Puan made sure that my special dietary needs were looked after by specially ordering a low-protein and low-salt meal for lunch everyday. I am grateful to Prof, as we fondly address Dato’ Dr. Zaliha, for giving me that opportunity do be part of her team and doing what I want to do – creating awareness and promoting disability issues.

VVIPs at my station where I explained about blogging and how ICT had helped me.
VVIPs at my station where I explained about blogging,
my work with MIND and how ICT had helped me.

With such high profile support from BAKTI which represents the wives of Ministers of the Malaysian Government, I can foresee better days ahead for people with disabilities. Although we are many decades behind developed countries where disability issues are concerned, there are evident signs that such issues are slowly gaining recognition in this country, especially from the relevant government agencies.

(L - R: Dr. Ramlah Sulaiman, Dato' Dr. Zaliha Omar, Datin Seri Wendy Ong and Toh Puan Datuk Dr. Aishah Ong
L – R: Dr. Ramlah Sulaiman, Dato’ Dr. Zaliha Omar,
Datin Seri Wendy Ong and Toh Puan Datuk Dr. Aishah Ong
at the briefing after the conclusion of the conference.

There is only so much that the non-disabled people can do to help. People with disabilities themselves must come out and state their case to enable the government and other authorities understand the situation better and hopefully, one day in the not too distant future, people with disabilities will be accorded equal status as everyone else.



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11 Responses to “BAKTI – MIND Conference Empowering PWDs With ICT”

  1. hafiz says:

    too bad i couldn’t be there. i was in kenyir at that time

  2. adriene says:

    went to the minds web site. what a wonderful start for better resources to aid disabled people in malaysia. and also good to know of good work done by bakti.

  3. Oo Khaik Cheang says:

    Dear Peter,

    Your account of the BAKTI-MIND conference is heartwarming and certainly augurs well for a group of much neglected citizens in this country. There are kind-hearted and compassionate people everywhere but unfortunately they are seldom made aware of the needs of minorities and how to respond to those needs because the media seldom pick up such causes until some public figure becomes involved and the event becomes a topic of public interest. Be that as it may, I sincerely wish your organization can build on this current event to help yourselves. All the best.
    Oo Khaik Cheang

  4. Bkworm says:

    Good for your, Peter! And looking so smart and ‘leng chai’ at the same time! ;)

  5. hafiz says:

    Adrienne: the website still in need of improvements specially in the accessibility part

  6. Yvonne Foong says:

    Peter, we’re counting on you! Though I still resent from being classified as “disabled” in any way. hehe..! Yes, I am narrow-minded to an extend. I appreciate all that you are doing for us!

  7. JoMel says:

    Peter, you look very leng chai in that shirt & tie. I am so sorry I couldn’t meet you. 7/12 Wed was the hearing date for my hubby’s estate. Mon, I had to go down to KL last min to meet client. Tues was not free. So sorry ok.

  8. Terenceg says:

    wah tai lou, you look damn leng chai in that tie and shirt…..

  9. Peter says:

    hafiz,
    Yes, it is a good beginning for people with disabilities (PWDs) in Malaysia. Do you mind to share what you meant by the accessibility part needing improvement? The webmaster is interested to know in order to improve the site.

    adriene,
    It is a good thing BAKTI is supporting MIND. I am looking to better days ahead for PWDs where they can get all their information from one single website… information that is verified and suited to local needs.

    Dr. Oo,
    Thank you. It is heartening to see the people in high place are beginning to realise the needs and rights of PWDs. We are moving towards the right direction in this matter.

    Bkworm,
    :D. The BAKTI-MIND Conference was fun.

    Yvonne,
    This will have to be a group effort. I am just one part of the cog. Hopefully, more PWDs will come out to present our case in an organised manner. This will not benefit only ourselves but will foster a better understandingbetween us and the general non-disabled community as well.

    JoMel,
    The next time then… before I go to Japan?

  10. lynnee says:

    hey, i spotted someone i know from your pics… a guy called eugene lau. he was one of my students when i was teaching students with learning difficulties awhile back.

  11. Poison says:

    It is good to note that BAKTI is supporting MIND. I’ve also been seeing a lot of publicity being done on the OKU campaign. When I was studying in Australia, I noticed how every university and public places would have PWDs facilities which enabled them to move around without much trouble at all. During those time, there were very few access for the PWDs back home. Sad but true. Anyway, don’t forget to take plenty of photos on your trip to Japan and tell us all about it. :-)