Disabled People Blind To Real Issues Affecting Them

Disabled people are funny people – funny in an ironic way. On one hand, we are asking that our fundamental rights be respected. We demand for equalization in opportunities. We want to be treated equally. On the other hand, we are also demanding for privileges. We want to enjoy discounts on everything – bus fares, phone bills, road tax and toll charges among others.

We should realise that one cannot see both sides of the coin at the same time. It is either heads or tails. If we want to be treated as equals, then we should be playing our part as equals. We cannot have the cake and eat it too. If we want the same services or facilities that other people are enjoying, then we should be prepared to pay the same price that everyone else is paying.

Rights and privileges are not interchangeable. We must understand the difference between the two. Privileges are things that are given out of goodwill and can be taken back at the wink of an eye. Rights are inalienable. It is not something that can be bestowed or revoked at whim. And rights must come first before anything else. That must be the priority in all disability advocacy activities.

At a time when our rights to accessible built environment and public transport in Malaysia is virtually non-existent, it is rather disappointing to hear my peers fussing over the 50% discount on bus and LRT fares provided by RapidKL to disabled people. By asking for such petty handouts, we are discarding our dignity to portray ourselves as objects of charity, pity and sympathy. Is that the impression that we really want to propagate about what disabled people really want from society?

That was exactly what happened at a meeting organised by the Malaysian Confederation of the Disabled (MCD) last Saturday to facilitate a survey conducted by the Malaysian Institute of Transport (MITRANS) based at the Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Shah Alam. The survey was to collect data on the public transportation needs of disabled people for the Master Plan on Public Transportation Policy that was commissioned by the Ministry of Transport.

Instead of focusing on the importance of equal access which is the main stumbling block in mainstreaming disability, some participants were bent in complaining about not getting the discount on bus and train fares. Please lar people, when tens of thousands of disabled people still cannot use the public transport, why are we talking about discounts? Have we become so petty that we only care for ourselves without a concern for those who are in situations worse off than ours? I am disappointed that people I regard as my peers in disability advocacy have lost sight of the big picture. We have truly missed the forest for the trees.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

7 thoughts on “Disabled People Blind To Real Issues Affecting Them”

  1. Point well put and argued. I agree wholeheartedly.There should be a clear delineating line between asking for handouts and the basic human right of unimpeded movement.The former lowers one’s esteem, the latter preserves it.

    From the way I see it, society has conditioned disabled people that they “deserve” charity. Disabled people themselves have allowed this to go on. It is the path of least resistance to get what they think they deserve. Privilege is just a small piece of the pie. Why have a small piece when we can have the entire pie? It baffles me why we are fighting for such trifle things when we could have used the same effort to go all the way to claim what we rightfully deserve. I am still baffled.

  2. First time here via Tuan Kerp’s blogsite. You make some very good points.

    However, me would like to point out that this wanting-a-discount-mentality is ingrained in ALL Malaysians. We are a nation of cheapskate hagglers la & will use virtually any excuse to get the price lowered . . .


  3. Peter,
    Isn’t it disheartening? But you encourage me in the fight :-)However, don’t get burnt out by it all. We should have a pow wow sometime.

    I have come to the state of realization where I do what I can, say my piece and move on. Yes, we really should have a pow wow sometime, with the peace pipe and all. 😀

  4. With all due respect, I can’t agree because discounts exist for the same reason that there are special programs that serve as resources for people with disabilities (ie. special, affordable housing with accomodations). The discounts accommodate the fact that people with disabilities, in comparison to the nondisabled, have far larger and often unreasonable medical expenses to contend with.

    Disabled people in Malaysia are given free medical treatment at all government hospitals. I am not against giving discounts to disabled people. If corporations want to dish out such privileges, I would say thank you for their thoughtfulness. But it is not something that I will actively advocate for. We must bear in mind that discounts, and other privileges for that matter, does not replace the fundamental rights of disabled people. However, many have the assumption that disabled people deserve to get discounts just because they are disabled people. And they actively advocate for such privileges ignoring the fact that their right to access the built environment and public transport does not even exist. What is the point of having discounted fares for services and facilities that we cannot use?

  5. I totally agree with your equality theory. I think we should more boldly face the able people rather to start begging.

    Yes we are special and our specialty should bring us at top and our energy to help other should much more.

    I would prefer not to use the term “special” on disabled people. What is it that makes us special? Our impairments? By calling ourselves “special” we are effectively segregating ourselves from mainstream society and segregation is one thing that disability advocates have been fighting against.

  6. Peter I use word special because i feel disabled word is much more hurting. May be we need to find some better word to express our self.

    The word disabled people/person is used worldwide. Why should it be hurtful to be referred as such?

  7. I am proud to be disabled. Its part of me and part of what makes me who I am – part of my identity, like being a Malaysian Chinese, being a woman and menopausal! Its only hurtful if we accept the stigmatisation non disabled people put on the ‘disability’. There are disabled people all over the world and this is the only identity that anybody can get – no discrimination, young, old, rich. poor, any race, gender or sexual orientation.

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