It is commendable that the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Datuk Dr. Ng Yen Yen has taken the initiative to set up a task force to encourage more disabled people to get jobs in the public sector. This is a big step for disabled people who have thus far find it difficult to get jobs due to a multitude of reasons.
The task force should not only concentrate in making work places accessible. It should also conduct programmes to educate colleagues of disabled people through Disability Equality Training (DET) to make them understand the prime causes of why people are disabled. At the expense of flogging the dead horse again, people are disabled by the environment and attitudes rather than by their condition.
Take one of the most basic but crucial facility – the toilet – for example. Toilets that are not large enough to accommodate a wheelchair prevents a wheelchair user from using it. He is disabled by facilities that he cannot use. Provide toilets that adheres to the Malaysian Standard MS 1184: Code of Practice on Access for Disabled Persons to Public Buildings (MS 1184) and the wheelchair user is no longer disabled when he needs to use one.
Nevertheless, toilets are only part of the problem for disabled people who are seeking employment. There should be a comprehensive policy to ensure that people who have impairments are not marginalised in areas of education. Malaysian Confederation of the Disabled secretary Bathmavathi Krishnan was correct in saying that “the ministry’s move would encourage the disabled to acquire higher academic qualifications.”
Everybody knows that education is of utmost importance, not only for disabled people seeking gainful employment, but also for non-disabled people. What I would like to know is how many of our mainstream schools are physically accessible to disabled people? Without accessible schools disabled people are unable to get even a primary education, let alone getting qualifications at the tertiary level.
To get to the schools, public transport must be accessible. The same goes for the necessity of an accessible public transport for disabled people to commute from their homes to work places. The walkways from the home to the bus stop and from the bus stop to the work places must be accessible. The public facilities in Malaysia has not reached that level of accessibility yet. To talk about employment when basic infrastructure is not in place yet is putting the horse before the cart.
The government can allocate 1% or even 10% of jobs in the civil service for disabled people. Without first resolving the core issues, I dare say that not many disabled people will benefit from this policy. If Dr. Ng is serious in this matter, she must work with the Minister of Education, Minister of Transport, Minister of Housing and Local Government, and other relevant ministries to tackle the deficiencies in the entire system. Otherwise, this may just be another brilliant plan that will never see fruition.
The Star Online
Wednesday May 7, 2008
Task force to get more disabled into civil service
KUALA LUMPUR: A task force is being set up to encourage more disabled people to work in the public sector, said Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen.
She said the ministry wanted feedback on how to create a suitable working environment for the disabled.
Help for disabled: Dr Ng pushing Bathmavathi as they move together with Malaysian Federation of the Deaf president Mohamad Sazali Shaari (left) and Dr Wong.
The task force would comprise ministry, Public Service Department (PSD) and disabled representatives.
This would also help PSD achieve its aim of having at least 1% of the government workforce, or 10,000 workers, being the disabled, she said.
Currently, there are 220,000 disabled persons registered with the Social Welfare Department. Only 581 of them are working in the public service and fewer than 5,000 in the private sector.
Dr Wong Huey Siew, Society for the Blind Malaysia’s Employment and Computer Development chairman, said around 50% of disabled persons left their jobs within six months.
Malaysian Confederation of the Disabled secretary K. Bathmavathi said the ministry’s move would encourage the disabled to acquire higher academic qualifications.