PETALING JAYA: Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil has called for a “barrier-free” environment to cater to the needs of the disabled community.
She said the ministry would rigorously defend the rights of the disabled.
“The requests for more disabled-friendly public transport facilities should not be taken lightly,” she said in a statement.
“All authorities involved in the handling and provision of, among other things, public transport, recreational parks and buildings must take into account the needs of all members of society, including the disabled.
“It is time that a ‘barrier-free’ environment be realised for the benefit of the whole of society.”
Shahrizat added that the ministry held talks with the Housing and Local Government Ministry in July to discuss the efforts taken to provide access and mobility for the disabled.
She added that a joint working paper between the two ministries was submitted during the national council meeting for local government, chaired by the Prime Minister, on Sept 25.
Last week, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stated that the current approach to helping the needy was towards capacity-building by providing quality training to ensure their future – PM: Encourage spirit of caring among the young. He was quoted as saying, “With training, the disabled will be able to obtain jobs, be independent and at par with their able-bodied counterparts.”
Many disabled persons do not possess the necessary academic qualifications because schools do not have the proper facilities to cater to their needs for them to complete formal education. The other major problem is transportation. There are no convenient ways for students with severe disabilities to commute between their homes and schools. In the end, many have to drop out.
If the federal government and local authorities continue to turn a blind eye to accessibility issues that have been plaguing these students and the disabled community, what makes this new approach any different? When one particular municipal council cannot even get its act right, who can blame me for being pessimistic?
Those problems will still be there even if disabled persons have been trained and are able to obtain jobs. How are they to get to work when they cannot use public buses and trains? Do their workplaces have ramps and suitable toilets? And if not, are potential employers willing to spend money to renovate?
The Prime Minister must realise that being financially independent will not solve all the challenges that disabled persons are facing everyday. The government must see it from a holistic point of view. Issues like education, accessibility and rights must be dealt with as a complete package rather than individually. They are all interlinked. It makes better sense and optimises resources when resolved as a whole.
Given proper support, many disabled persons can realise their potential and play an active part in nation-building. We would prefer to be fishermen than be given fishes. Unfortunately for now, we are provided with the hooks and sinkers but not the rods and lines. Until a time when the rods and lines are made available to us as well, we can never really feel we that are at par with our “able-bodied counterparts”.