DET Forum Malaysia facilitated a one-day workshop for members of the Malaysian Advocates for Cerebral Palsy (MyCP) on 27 April. It was held at the Kuala Lumpur Campus of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) which is situated at Bangunan Yayasan Selangor Kampung Baru.
This workshop was the collaborative effort between DET Forum Malaysia, MyCP, UKM and the Department of Social Welfare Malaysia. Elizabeth Ang co-facilitated with me for the eighteen participants comprising parents, doctors and physiotherapists.
From the action plan that the four groups presented, it was obvious that there is a dire need for accessible and inclusive education for disabled students. These include increasing the number of teaching assistants for disabled students and making the school environment accessible. I hope the participants will carry through their action plans to make schooling easier for disabled students.
Participants identifying problems faced by a wheelchair user at Disability Equality Training workshop.
A participant sharing his thoughts on disability issues at the DET workshop.
Participants at the DET workshop working on their action plan.
Group 2 participants with their action plan at DET workshop.
Group 1 participants with their action plan.
Group 3 participants with their action plan.
Group 4 participants with their action plan.
Group photo after the DET workshop with MyCP members.
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Why disabled people must vote
by Peter Tan. Posted on April 13, 2013, Saturday
“MY one vote will not change anything.”
That was what I used to think. Imagine, a constituency full of like-minded people.
In that case, we deserve the politicians who get voted in due to our apathy.
These politicians may not have our best interests at heart but we have no moral standing to voice out against that.
How can we complain when we did not even bother to participate in the election?
We only have ourselves to blame when that happens.
That is why everyone who is eligible to vote must vote, more so when it comes to disabled people.
It is our right as citizens. That one vote is our most valuable asset as Malaysians. It is also our responsibility and duty as citizens to exercise that right to vote.
The exercising of that right, responsibility and duty makes us active participants in the democratic process of the country which in turn contributes to nation building.
Neither the Federal Constitution nor the Persons with Disabilities Act specifically mentions the political rights of disabled people.
However, Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) requires that disabled people are guaranteed full and effective participation in political and public life on an equal basis with others.
Malaysia, being a signatory to this instrument and having ratified it, is bound by the CRPD to ensure that those rights are protected.
Going out to vote on this important day raises our visibility in public. There are actually a lot more disabled people than we usually see out and about.
The first ever World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Bank world report on disability estimates that 15 per cent of the world’s population lives with some form of disability.
That is more than a billion people based on the 2010 global population estimates.
Hypothetically, if we apply that percentage on the population of Malaysia, we have 4.2 million people who are experiencing some form of disability.
That is a lot of people by any account. At that figure, disabled people make up the second largest minority that transcends ethnicity, gender and religion in the country.
State parties to the CRPD are obligated to ensure that voting procedures, facilities and materials are accessible, easy to understand and use.
In this aspect, most polling centres are situated in schools and community halls, and they are generally inaccessible.
This is a good opportunity for us to show the various barriers that we face and ensure that the facilities in these polling centres are made accessible, not only for future elections but for people who use it on a daily basis at other times.
By voting, we are able to discover other issues, like how the voting process can be made more dignified for blind people and people with severe impairments.
How do we ensure that this group of people are able to vote while at the same time preserving the integrity and secrecy of their ballot?
The Election Commission needs to look into these matters seriously. The only way to do this is to involve the stakeholders in the decision making process.
Our responsibility does not end after casting our votes. In fact, it is only the beginning.
After that, irrespective of the candidates we have voted for, we have to engage these politicians representing our constituencies.
We have to educate them on the issues affecting disabled people for them to draw up and implement effective policies.
Subsequent to the election in 2008, a group of us drafted a memorandum on the provision of accessible facilities for disabled people.
In Selangor, we forwarded the memorandum to the state government through a state assembly member.
Our fellow advocates in Penang got an appointment with the Chief Minister and presented to him a similar version of the document.
This initiative brought some changes but more is required.
It should be replicated for this election, and this time, hopefully presented to all the state governments in Malaysia.
We need to continue doing this to ensure that we are not forgotten. We must come together and speak in unison in order to have a louder voice.
Disabled people have been marginalised for far too long. Our need for an accessible built environment and public transport are often ignored.
The by-law for the provision of access for disabled people to public buildings and even the Persons with Disabilities Act have not been effective in protecting our rights.
We need to actively pursue our case and at the same time constantly campaign these elected representatives to support our cause.
On our part, many of us have not participated in the electoral process. Many have not even registered as voters.
This is also partly due to the inaccessibility of registration centres and polling centres.
Perhaps the Election Commission can look into easing the registration process for disabled people and extending postal voting to those with severe impairments.
Having said that, if disabled people want society to be inclusive, first and foremost, we have to play our part and exercise our right to vote despite the many barriers we will face.
For registered disabled voters, it is time to shrug off that apathy and realise that we have the power to change the country for the better.
As the second largest minority in the country, we certainly have the numbers to influence and sway these politicians if we play our cards right.
We must not allow this opportunity to slip away because it comes only once every five years or so. Make that one vote count!
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Adventures of a first time voter
by Peter Tan. Posted on April 6, 2013, Saturday
THE announcement that had the entire nation waiting in anticipation has come to pass. Our Prime Minister finally dissolved parliament on Wednesday.
Once again, as a citizen, I am raring to exercise my right to vote for candidates who will serve to protect my interests and that of the people and our nation.
I recall the very first time I voted. It was in 2008. I was residing in Selangor but my voting constituency was in Penang.
On the morning of polling day, my wife Wuan got up early to cast her vote at the polling station just down the road from our house.
The plan was that we would make our way up to Penang after she had performed her duty as a citizen. We expected to begin our journey latest by nine o’clock.
We did not set off until an hour and a half later as the polling station was packed to the brim. Wuan had to wait for nearly one hour for her turn.
We did not even pack anything as we planned to drive back immediately after I had voted.
As soon as we hit the North-South Expressway, we were caught in a crawl due to road widening works and unusually heavy traffic.
Most of the vehicles had Perak, Penang and Kedah plates. They were probably like us rushing back to their respective home towns to vote.
The sky that was blue when we began turned dark halfway. Rained pelted our windscreen mercilessly. We had to slow down due to the limited visibility.
I wondered if we could make it in time before the polling station closed and how I was going to get out from the car in that rain.
There were several nasty traffic accidents along the way. We even counted a 10-car pileup that caused a jam several kilometres long.
Upon nearing Penang, we almost got into an accident. Three vehicles that we were following suddenly stepped on their brakes.
Right before our eyes, the lorry ahead of us skidded. It swerved and almost toppled over, the cargo on its load bed shifted violently from one side to another.
I floored the brake pedal. The road was slippery. I mumbled a silent prayer and swerved the car. It did not skid and came to a stop. That was a very close call.
Traffic came to a crawl again as we crossed onto the island. It was already quarter to four. At the rate we were going, we certainly could not make it in time.
I took several shortcuts to avoid the jam but we were not making good time. As the seconds ticked away, I became more and more edgy.
At close to half past four, we were stuck in another jam. The polling station was just 2km away. The rain not only did not let up but became heavier.
That stretch of road we were passing was notorious for flash floods, especially during monsoon seasons. We inched our way slowly in the fast rising water.
When we finally reached the school where the polling station was located, a policeman at the gate stopped us.
I wound down the window and told him that I am an OKU. He waved us through. It was half past four. We had been on the road for six hours already.
Wuan took my identity card and went to get the number for my polling stream. Each polling station has several polling streams. These were rooms where we collect out ballot papers and cast our votes.
As Wuan was getting the wheelchair out from the car boot, a helpful polling station staff came with an umbrella to shield her from the rain and for me to get out from the car.
There were numerous steps from the car park to the polling stream. Wuan had to lift my wheelchair over these barriers several times.
After the officers in the polling stream verified my identity card and gave me the ballot papers, I wheeled myself to the booth.
I had some difficulty holding the pencil to mark the ballot papers with my weak hand.
After marking the paper for parliamentary seat, I pondered over who to vote for for the state seat. Penangites have a tendency to give the vote to BN for state and DAP for parliament.
I must have taken a little too long to decide because the ballot box officer stood up to peek at me. I quickly marked the other paper and slotted them into the respective ballot boxes.
As I got out from the room, I felt relieved and happy that I made it. That long journey was not in vain.
Traffic on the expressway was smooth the entire trip back. When we reached Ipoh, news trickled in that the alliance of DAP, PKR and PAS had won the majority of seats in Penang.
We reached home at one o’clock in the morning, tired, hungry and in serious need of a warm bath to soothe our aching muscles. A quick check on the Internet before bed revealed that BN also lost Perak and Selangor.
All in all, I had driven 800km in 15 hours for the round trip. I am proud to have exercised my right to vote for the first time after 42 years as a citizen. It was truly an unforgettable adventure.
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