I am disappointed that some Democratic Action Party (DAP) members are not sensitive to the rights of disabled people to an inclusive and barrier-free society despite the fact that DAP national chairman Karpal Singh has been a wheelchair user for the past 7 years.
Shame on MPAJ councillor Dorothy Cheong who ignored my objections against the road hump that was built right outside my house. It is still there even after a lengthy explanation on the risks that it poses to me as a wheelchair user.
It is even more disappointing that ADUN Teratai Jenice Lee came to her defence when I chided Dorothy for her patronising attitude. The councillor had said that “I believe people of your situation would more than welcome it because it will practically slow down vehicles from speeding and thus safety is the priority in the mind of these residents in your neighbourhood.”
Am I stupid or what? Would I object to something that is truly for my safety? The fact is that the hump itself is a barrier and a danger to my safety as a disabled person. It may cause my wheelchair to tip backward when I ascending or cause me to fall forward when descending. Because of this safety concern, I have been stuck on my side of the road for the past three months.
Her talking down to me like I didn’t know what I was talking about is unbecoming to her position as a councillor and facilitator between the residents and MPAJ. What irked me most was that as a representative of the people, she had not even bothered to meet me in person to understand my concerns. Instead, she brushed my complaints off just like that.
She was also reported by The Star to have said that “We can’t entertain one person’s complaint as we want to help everyone.” So, the complaints of people in the minority can simply be ignored because we are inconsequential in numbers? Going by that logic, should the government of the day disregard the interests of all minority groups in the country?
I have no use for a councillor with such a narrow perspective of issues representing me in MPAJ. I earnestly hope that this is not the stand of DAP, the political party she represents. Otherwise, disabled people and other minority groups will have a difficult time advocating for our rights should Pakatan Rakyat come to power in the next general election. For that matter, I cannot emphasise enough that such irresponsible behaviour should not be the stand of any political party.
Tags: ADUN Teratai, Democratic Action Party Malaysia, disabled people Malaysia, Dorothy Cheong, Jenice Lee, Karpal Singh, Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya, OKU, orang kurang upaya, Pandan Perdana, rights of disabled people, road hump, wheelchair user Malaysia
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