The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Department of Social Welfare Malaysia organised a 2-week workshop on Disability Equality Training from 8th to 19th January. This workshop, facilitated by Dr. Kenji Kuno, Senior Advisor on Social Security and Disability for JICA, was the 2nd Regional Asia Pacific Training of Senior Trainers (TOST) and 3rd Regional Asia Pacific Training of Trainers (TOT) to be held in Malaysia.
Twenty participants from twelve countries in the Asia Pacific region, including five from Malaysia, underwent training on the understanding of disability and facilitation skills. The countries represented were Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Timor Leste, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Philippines, Samoa and Japan. The TOST ran concurrently with two participants from Malaysia who also doubled up as co-facilitators of the workshop. They were Nurul Huda Zainal from the Department of Social Welfare Malaysia and Fariz Abdul Rani from JB Prosthetic and Rehab Supply in Sabah.
Although I was the co-facilitator supporting the learning of senior trainers and trainers, I learnt a lot from the participants and Dr. Kuno as well. The most empowering moment in the entire workshop was seeing the participants rewriting their life according to the Social Model of Disability. They were struck with the realisation that their impairments were not the cause of them being disabled. Rather, the hardships that they faced and marginalisation from society stemmed from attitudinal and environmental barriers.
It was a privilege to be part of the transformation of the participants into DET trainers. Their perspective of disability and themselves as disabled persons will never be the same again. Disability is more than what we see in a wheelchair user or a blind person. It is an issue that involves so many aspects of society and requires the involvement of all levels to resolve. All of them now have the knowledge and skills that they can put into practice to make their own respective societies more inclusive.
To date, the Project to Support Participation of Persons with Disabilities by JICA, which DET is part of, has produced 153 trainers from 18 countries across the Asia Pacific, Africa and Latin America. Even with so few trainers spread across several continents, attitudes towards disabled people have changed. The public and private sectors in these countries have engaged DET trainers to conduct workshops in their organisations to better understand disability issues and work together to resolve them.
Group photo after the conclusion of the 3rd Regional Asia Pacific Training of Trainers on Disability Equality Training 2013. Seated between the participants (L-R): Cik Nor Tipah Majin, Senior Principal Assistant Director of Persons with Disabilities Development Department, Dato’ Norani bt Hj Mohd Hashim, Director General of Department of Social Welfare Malaysia and Mr. Kunihiko Sato, Chief Representative of JICA Malaysia.
2nd Regional Asia Pacific Training of Senior Trainers on Disability Equality Training 2013.
Standing (L-R): Dr. Kenji Kuno (Facilitator) and Nurul Huda Zainal.
Seated: Fariz Abdul Rani and Peter Tan (Co-Facilitator).
Tags: Bandar Baru Sentul, Fariz Abdul Rani, Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat, Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA, JKM, Kementerian Pembangunan Wanita Keluarga dan Masyarakat, Kenji Kuno, Majlis Kebajikan dan Pembangunan Masyarakat Kebangsaan Malaysia MAKPEM, Nurul Huda Zainal
The United Nations declared December 3 every year as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. I would prefer to call it the International Day of Disabled Persons but that is another story for another day. Approximately 1 billion people or 15% of the world’s population live with some form of disability. The theme for 2012, “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all” is very apt as many disability-rights advocates have been demanding for the removal of barriers for a long time to enable equal participation of disabled people.
These barriers are not limited only to the built environment but are prevalent in attitudes in the form of prejudice, ignorance and discrimination. I am not proud to say that Malaysia is still a nation where disabled people are marginalised, discriminated against and face countless barriers every day of our lives. Even with legislation, the quality of life of disabled persons have not improved much in contrast to the rest of the population.
The requirements of the Uniform Building By-Law 34A that buildings must be accessible to disabled persons are ignored by the local authorities most of the time. More than fifteen years after it was gazetted by the various state governments, many buildings, including new buildings, are still full of barriers. And as far as I am concerned, the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 also have not done much to alleviate the situation.
Public transport and the built environment continue to remain inaccessible. These in turn make it difficult for disabled people to gain access to education, employment, medical care and participate in politics and religion. Ours is a government that is reactive. They need to be kicked to get rolling. Otherwise, the rights of disabled people are often ignored and forgotten.
Legislations are only effective when enforced. Sad to say, officials from the ministerial down to the municipal levels entrusted with implementation and enforcement have miserably failed in their duties. Legitimate grouses were swept under the carpet and complaints were ignored. These governments in different manifestations are the biggest stumbling blocks to making society accessible and inclusive as they have the all resources at their disposal to make it happen. Yet they do not bother.
At the same time, NGOs, activists and advocates have to pull their act together. We are weak because we are not united. We do not speak in one voice. We abuse our positions as leaders of the disability movement in Malaysia by squabbling over personal issues. We sacrifice the needs of the many to benefit the personal agendas of the few. We sabotage others’ efforts. We still practice charity-based activities when we should be advocating for our rights. We spend so much resources, time and effort in fighting each other that we have lost sight of the big picture. I strongly believe that much could have been achieved had we worked as one unit. It is still not too late though.
On the whole, Malaysia cannot claim we have arrived as a nation if the rights of minorities and marginalised are not respected. The theme for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a timely call for everyone to work together to make society inclusive. The governments have to play their part. Society in general has to play its part. Most importantly, disabled people must come together to speak in unison on issues that affect us as a community. Removing barriers is not that difficult if we each understand our roles. An inclusive and accessible society benefits everyone. Lets make an effort to work towards that.
Tags: Akta OKU 2008, Akta Orang Kurang Upaya 2008, disabled people Malaysia, Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat, Jabatan Pembangunan Orang Kurang Upaya JPOKU, Kementerian Pembangunan Wanita Keluarga dan Masyarakat, OKU, orang kurang upaya, Persons with Disabilities Act 2008, PWD Act 2008, UBBL 34A, Uniform Building By-Law 34A, wheelchair user Malaysia
My first Kad Kenal Diri Orang Kurang Upaya (Identity Card for Person with Disabilities) was issued in 1995. It is a laminated piece of paper card with my photograph, personal particulars and signature. The card measures 4.25″ x 3.5″. It is big and could not fit into my wallet. The most memorable part of this card is that it was presented to me by the then Governor of Penang Tun Hamdan Sheikh Tahir in an official ceremony at the Dewan Sri Pinang in 1995.
New and old Card for Person with Disabilities (Kad OKU)
The card has seen better days. The corners of the laminate have started to peel apart due to wear and tear and from being improperly kept due to its size. I had wanted to have it replaced with a newer laminated card that is smaller but have never gotten to doing it. When Wuan was on leave in June, we decided to take a long drive down to the Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat (JKM) in Kajang to apply for the latest version of the card and change my address from Penang to Pandan Perdana.
It was an easy process. I had to fill up a form, submit it with a photocopy of my identity card, had my photograph taken and then told to wait for the letter informing me to collect the card. Some time in August, the letter finally came. We went on another long drive to collect it from Kajang. It is now called Kad OKU or Kad Orang Kurang Upaya (Card for Person with Disabilities). This plastic card certainly appears more durable as compared to the previous laminated ones. The size of this new card is similar to the identity card and driving license and fits easily into my wallet.
Tags: Department of Social Welfare Malaysia, disabled people Malaysia, Governor of Penang, Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat, JKM, Kajang, Kementerian Pembangunan Wanita Keluarga dan Masyarakat, OKU, orang kurang upaya, Tun Hamdan Sheikh Tahir