Category Archives: Accessible Toilets

BAKTI – MIND Conference Empowering PWDs With ICT

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.

All Flushed Over Toilet Blog

In today’s The Sunday Times:


Image courtesy of The Prawn King

Oct 30, 200
All flushed over toilet blog

Wendy Cheng’s blog on loos for the handicapped draws a slew of complaints – leading 2 advertisers to pull out from her website

By Jeremy Au Yong

A HEATED online debate over toilets for the handicapped has caused local blogger Wendy Cheng to lose two of her three sponsorship deals.

Blogger Wendy Cheng found support from two unlikely groups. The Society for the Physically Disabled as well as the Handicaps Welfare Association see nothing wrong with sharing toilets meant for the handicapped, as long as the able-bodied give priority to the disabled. — STEPHANIE YEOW

Hair salon Kimage and nail studio Voxy pulled their ads from her popular website xiaxue.blogspot.com this week, after receiving complaints from Netizens about her remarks on loos for the handicapped. Only T-shirt maker LocalBrand is staying.

Both companies paid the 21-year-old to run their ads for three months. But after two months, Voxy wanted out while Kimage had just one week left.

While none would reveal the amount paid, the two endorsements are worth a three-figure sum to Ms Cheng.

Her loss was prompted by remarks she made two weeks ago in her online diary. She wrote that the loos – bigger and equipped with a sink – were not just for the use of disabled people.

‘Sure, if I see that you are physically disabled, and you need to use the toilet, then yes, obviously I will let you use it and go use a normal toilet,’ she said.

But at other times, the able-bodied can use it too, she added. Her blog entry also criticised a ‘rude’ disabled person in Ginza Plaza who had scolded a man for trying to use the loo for the handicapped.

It raised the ire of many. Her site was swamped by dozens of rude messages that accused her of being callous and uncivilised, which are among the kinder labels hurled at her.

Her critics argued that the toilets should not be dirtied by the abled-bodied who had many more cubicles from which to pick and use.

‘It’s a basic amenity for us. It is a right, not a privilege,’ said Mr Peter Tan, 39, a Malaysian blogger who is partially paralysed. He was so riled by her posting that he complained to the three sponsors, criticising them for endorsing her.

Others followed. By the end of last week, Kimage had received about 300 e-mail messages, prompting it to suspend its association with Ms Cheng.

Ms Monica Tan, director of Kimage, which has 15 outlets, said the chain was shocked by the huge number of e-mail.

She said: ‘It just became one big hoo-ha. There were so many e-mail messages I couldn’t finish reading all of them. I didn’t want to get involved.’

Similarly, a spokesman for Voxy admitted that the fracas played a part in its decision to end the deal, although there were other ‘internal reasons’.

LocalBrand founder Turodrique Fuad, however, is not pulling out even though he disagrees with Ms Cheng. He thinks the issue has been blown out of proportion.

‘There was nothing intentionally malicious about her post. I may not agree with her view but when you endorse a blogger, you have to accept that he or she is sometimes going to say controversial things.

‘You have to give them the freedom,’ he said.

Ms Cheng is known for speaking her mind. She has written about measuring penises and evangelising, and poked fun at the nude pictures posted by a blogger writing as Sarong Party Girl.

That she has enemies is no surprise. In July, a hacker hijacked her blog, deleted its contents and left rude messages in its place.

On the latest furore, she has supporters from an unlikely source. The Society for the Physically Disabled as well as the Handicaps Welfare Association see nothing wrong with sharing the loos as long as the able-bodied give priority to the disabled.

Right or wrong, Ms Cheng said the episode would not change anything. ‘I don’t think I have projected something that is extreme and I will write exactly the way I’ve always done.’

jeremyau@sph.com.sg