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VARIOUS quarters gave the thumbs up to Malaysian Asso ciation for the Blind president Professor Datuk Dr Ismail Md Salleh’s recent appointment as a Dewan Negara senator.
Ismail became the first blind person in the nation’s history to be appointed senator.
However, some also indicated that they would love to have someone who is more in touch with those at the grassroots levels.
Kuala Lumpur Centre for Inde pendent Living peer counsellor Peter Tan greeted the news with enthusiasm, stating that it marked an important move by the government, as there has not been a representative for the dis abled community in Parliament for a long time.
Despite calling the move “the first step towards change,” Tan expressed his wish to see someone elected who was more in touch with the grassroots level to better represent the disabled community in the country.
“With due respect to Ismail, I would have preferred a person with mobility impairment, spe cifically a wheelchair user, to rep resent disabled people in the Par liament. As I see it, people with mobility impairments in Malaysia are facing a host of problems that have gone unresolved for dec ades,” Tan said.
He said, Malaysia lacks an ad equate support system which al lows those who are severely dis abled to look after themselves and continue to be marginalised.
Tan added that these are the things which Ismail needs to look into as senator.
“The appointment of a disabled person as senator is a positive move by the government. I sin cerely hope that Ismail will make an effort to truly understand is sues faced by the disabled com munity.
“While issues like education, employment and accessibility are important, Ismail must never forget the plight of people with severe disabilities who are often forgotten by society and even disability advocates. These are the people whom Ismail must represent in the Parliament,” Tan said.
Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association president Anthony Thanasayan echoed Tan’s views in having a senator who was more actively involved with the grassroots.
“We have been waiting for more than 20 years for a rep resentative to be appointed to Dewan Negara and Ismail’s ap pointment came as good news,”
Thanasayan exclaimed, in which he added, “let’s face it, only a disabled person would under stand what another disabled person is going through.”