Disability Equality Training For JOCV And Malaysian Counterparts

Thirty members from the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and their Malaysian counterparts from various disability-related governmental agencies participated in a one-day Disability Equality Training (DET) at the Pusat Latihan Perindustrian dan Pemulihan Bangi (PLPP Bangi) last Thursday. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Kenji Kuno. I played the supporting role as a co-facilitator.

Dr. Kenji Kuno facilitating the Disability Equality Training (DET) for JOCV members and Malaysian counterparts
Dr. Kenji Kuno facilitating Disability Equality Training (DET) for JOCV members at PLPP Bangi.
Photo by Wuan.

The two main components in DET are the Social Model of Disability and Action Planning. Social Model fosters the understanding of the causes of disability while Action Planning foments the removal those causes to enable full participation of disabled people in society.

Disability Equality Training (DET) Workshop in session
Disability Equality Training (DET) Workshop in session.
Photo by Wuan.

I am glad to say that the participants left the workshop with a good knowledge on how they can remove disabling factors that they encounter in the course of their work. I was thinking would it not be excellent if the Malaysian government adopts DET as a standard course in the civil service. This will definitely expand the understanding of disability issue in the general population that will wishfully lead to a more inclusive society.

Group photo with JOCV members after the Disability Equality Training (DET) Workshop
Group photo with JOCV members after the Disability Equality Training (DET) Workshop.
Photo by Wuan.

Redefining Disability

Peter Tan speaking at the 2nd Malaysian Conference on Rehabilitation
Peter Tan speaking at the 2nd Malaysian Conference on Rehabilitation.
Photo by Wuan.

My second presentation for the 2nd Malaysian Conference on Rehabilitation at the Pusat Latihan Perindustrian dan Pemulihan Bangi (PLPP Bangi) was titled “Rights-Based Advocacy on Disability in Malaysia: An Overview and the Way Forward.” It was for the Special Interest Groups concurrent session on “Social Advocacy on Disability Issues.”

Disabled people vs persons with disability vs orang kurang upaya

In advocating for equality, the first issue that we need to resolve is to redefine disability. I asked if disability is caused by the condition of the person or is it caused by the environment? At the same time, I challenged the use of the term “persons with disability” and its Malaysian Language equivalent “orang kurang upaya” to refer to disabled people. “Orang kurang upaya” means persons with lesser abilities. To the general public, it is just a matter of terminology but it matters a lot to me as the person who is being referred to.

Paradigm shift from charity-based approach to rights-based approach

The other matters that I brought up were that there is a need for a paradigm shift from charity-based to rights-based advocacy, inclusion of disabled people as stake holder in all levels of decision making and resolving issues using a holistic approach rather than on a piecemeal basis. The following is the abstract of my presentation:

Rights-Based Advocacy on Disability In Malaysia:
An Overview And The Way Forward

The disability advocacy movement in Malaysia has a tattered history of modest victories and great failures. Three decades or so of advocacy and activism have not succeeded in ensuring the equalization of opportunities for disabled people. Disability is considered a problem of the minority and other people’s problems. Resolving disability-related problems are deemed extras that need money and do not benefit the majority. This essay explores the reasons behind those perceptions and how we can learn from past mistakes to effectively move the government, corporations and society to change their mindsets and create an inclusive environment that benefits everyone.

Below were the topics that my fellow speakers presented:

The Need for “Bottom-Up” Approach in the Implementation of Policies Related to Persons with Disabilities in Malaysia
Associate Professor Dr. Tiun Ling Ta
Universiti Sains Malaysia

Empowering People with Intellectual Disabilities
Ms. Khor Ai-Na
Executive Director of Asia Community Service

Media – Friend or Foe
Ms. Mary Chen
Editor, Challenges

JICA Project on Support for Persons with Disabilities in Malaysia
Mr. Hideo Tsukamoto
Assistant Resident Represnetative, JICA Malaysia

Self-Advocacy: Towards an Interdependent and Inclusive Community
Ms. Teh Hooi Ting and Ms. Yeo Swee Lan
United Voice

Promoting Accessible Public Transport – Meeting the Needs of Disabled People and All
Ms. Christine Lee

Challenges and Success Stories of Advocacy in Diverse Communities in Sarawak

Mr. Francis Johen Adam

Circle Of Mobility For Disabled People

2nd Malaysian Conference on Rehabilitation
Panel Discussion 2 – Barrier-Free Built-Environment and Universal Design
(L-R) Puan Khairiah Talha, Mr Patrick Ang, Cik Khairul Nisa bt. Haron, Cik Naziaty Yaacob (Chairperson), Peter Tan, Puan Ch’ng Gaik Bee @ Dalilah Bee Abdullah and Puan Tan Choo Lan.
Photo by Wuan.

My first presentation at the panel session for special interest groups of the 2nd Malaysian Conference on Rehabilitation at Pusat Latihan Perindustrian and Pemulihan Bangi (PLPP) was titled “Inclusive Environment in Malaysia: From the Perspective of a Wheelchair User.” The main point of the entire presentation is the “Circle of Mobility for Disabled People.”

Circle of Mobility for Disabled People
Circle of Mobility for Disabled People

The concept is very simple. The circle represents the journey from the point of origin to the destination and then from the final destination back to home. The journey includes the built environment which is represented by the line and public transport. The entire journey must be seamless. Any break in between may cause the disabled person to be stranded and unable to complete the journey.

Peter Tan speaking at the 2nd Malaysian Conference on Rehabilitation
Peter Tan speaking at the 2nd Malaysian Conference on Rehabilitation.
Photo by Wuan.

In Malaysia, the circle is broken in many places. The moment a disabled person gets out from the house, he will be faced with barriers in the built environment. These includes walkways without ramps, walkways littered with street furniture and other obstructions. Public transport is totally inaccessible. That is the reason why many wheelchair users are stuck at home and unable to go out.

The solutions are very simple actually. The government, be they federal, state or local, have the resources and means to resolve this issue. They must also take the blame for allowing this problem to fester until now. The four points for the solution that I presented were:

  1. Adopt Universal Design in all future infrastructural developments
  2. Enforce UBBL 34A and incorporate MS1331 into relevant legislation
  3. Audit Access officers in local governments to implement and enforce UBBL 34A
  4. Establish a time-frame to make Malaysia accessible to all

This is the abstract for my presentation:

Inclusive Environment In Malaysia:
From The Perspective Of A Wheelchair User

Two important factors determine whether a disabled person becomes home-bound or live a full life outside. One is public transport, the other the built environment. One cannot exist without the other. Neither exists in Malaysia. Some may argue that parts of the built environment have become accessible in recent years. This is true to a certain extent. However, the lack of interconnectivity makes these pockets of accessible heaven another unreachable speck in the horizon for many still. There is an urgent need to impress upon the people responsible for infrastructure that an accessible environment not only provides mobility. It empowers disabled people to become independent and improves their productivity overall. Furthermore, an inclusive environment benefits everyone. What is good for disabled people is good for everyone else. This is a win-win situation for all. This paper presents my experience as a wheelchair user with examples gleaned from the Independent Living movement in Japan.

Below were the topics that my fellow panelists presented:

The Construction Industry’s Role in Facilitating for Social Inclusion
Puan Tan Choo Lan
Bahagian Kawalan Bangunan, Jabatan Kerajaan Tempatan,
Ministry of Housing and Local Government, Malaysia

Barrier-Free City Kuala Lumpur
Puan Ch’ng Gaik Bee @ Dalilah Bee Abdullah
Architect, Architect’s Department,
Kuala Lumpur City Hall

Barrier Free City Petaling Jaya
Cik Khairul Nisa bt. Haron
Assistant Director/Planner, Development Planning Department,
Petaling Jaya City Council, Selangor

Collaborating with the Local Authority in Achieving Barrier-free City, Singapore
Mr. Patrick Ang
Level Field Consultants

Do We Need Legislative Changes Before We Care?
Puan Khairiah Talha
Secretary General, Eastern Regional Organization for Planning and Human Settlements (EAROPH)