The Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat (JKM), through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), invited me to conduct a Disability Equality Training (DET) session titled “What is Disability?” in Kuching, Sarawak. This was in conjunction with the Sarawak State Level 2012 Seminar on Supported Employment for Disabled People.
Knowing that I would need to be accompanied on overnight trips, JICA arranged to cover the return flight tickets and hotel accommodation for Wuan and I. It was a busy period at work for Wuan and she could not take leave to go with me.
Coincidentally, I met Victor Chin during the Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival 2012 at the time when I was looking for someone to accompany me. Victor, a renowned artist and photographer, is a good friend who had roped us in to hold a joint photography exhibition with him in 2009. I asked and he agreed to accompany me to Sarawak for the seminar.
Still, I was hesitant because that would be the first time I would be travelling with an expensive rigid wheelchair. I was afraid the wheelchair could be damaged by mishandling of the cargo handlers. I checked around but could not get insurance specifically to cover damage or loss of the wheelchair for the duration of the trip.
Having already committed to the seminar, I steeled my nerves and prayed nothing untoward would happen to the wheelchair; else I would be stranded in a land far away from home. Then, there was the uncertainty of whether I needed a passport.
There was virtually no information on the documents required of Malaysians from the peninsular entering Sarawak in official government websites. Friends in the know informed me that all that was needed is my identity card. I should have asked JKM or JICA regarding this in the first place.
I have not been to Kuching before but I have a few friends who are from there. We got acquainted online through our blogs. We agreed to meet but since I had no idea of my schedule yet, we could not arrange for a specific time to meet up. Nevertheless, I was excited at being able to finally meet them face to face after so many years of communication through our blogs and then Facebook.
Every year this day, I spend some quite time reflecting. I no longer think so much about how my life could have turned out had I not made that fateful dive into the pool. I could have become an engineer like what my father wanted me to be to take after him. I could have become a politician. I could have turned to crime. I could be very dead by now. I will never know. That is not important any more. I cannot turn back the clock and change that any way.
Instead, I reflect on what I have done so far with what I have and what I can be. Life is too short to be wondering about what could have been. Searching for a purpose in life was difficult in the beginning. It took a lot of hits and misses for me to discover what I wanted to do and one that I could do well in. Blogging was the first step. Then I had the fortuity to make friends with people who nudged me in the right direction. Kuan Aw and Christine deserves all the credit for being the wind that filled my sails when I first set out from the harbour.
Dr. Kenji Kuno of the Japan International Agency (JICA) gave me every opportunity available in his collaborative projects with the Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat since 2005 to learn about Independent Living Programme (ILP) and Disability Equality Training (DET). My perspective on disability and rights of disabled people are shaped by the philosophies and principles propounded in these courses. I am now a senior trainer for DET and resource person on ILP because he gave me many opportunities to learn and put them into practice.
Wuan is instrumental in encouraging and supporting my work in disability advocacy. Without her, I would not be able to do so much. I may be independent but I still need assistance with my activities of daily living. Wuan helps me with that and that makes it convenient for me when I am out and about. Even at home, my life is easier because she makes sure that my needs are well looked after before she goes to work and after. She is always there for me. Indeed, she has been my pillar of strength since the beginning of our relationship.
On this anniversary, I want to celebrate these wonderful people who have come into my life and made a difference in so many ways. I am who I have become today because they have been generous with their kindness. They have proven that disabled people, given the opportunity and support, can achieve much more than we are made to believe. I am that irrefutable proof.
The road ahead may still be long but because of the foundation that they have helped me build, I am now doing work that is not only personally fulfilling but one that has the potential to change society for the better. To them, I want to say a big thank you from the bottom of my heart. My life is all the better because of you.
SOCSO Chief Executive Officer K. Selvarajah giving a speech at the opening of the Disability Equality Training workshop. Seated L-R: JICA Senior Advisor Dr. Kenji Kuno and Manager of SOCSO Return To Work Section Roshaimi Mat Rosely.
Photo by Wuan.
The Department of Return to Work of the Social Security Organisation Malaysia (SOCSO) organised a Disability Equality Training (DET) workshop for employers in the private sectors and staff of SOCSO last Thursday. Private sector participants were from Malaysia Airlines, British American Tobacco, Sunway Hotel, KFC, Pizza Hut, Ayamas, Sports Toto and Cathay Cineplexes, among others. The theme of the workshop was “Towards Inclusion and Diversity”. It was conducted at Menara PERKESO in Jalan Ampang and officiated by SOCSO Chief Executive Officer K. Selvarajah.
JICA Senior Advisor Dr. Kenji Kuno facilitating the Disability Equality Training at SOCSO.
Photo by Wuan.
During the half-day DET workshop, Dr. Kenji Kuno guided participants through the various aspects of understanding disability as a social issue and how problems arising from attitudinal and environmental barriers can be resolved by applying the Open Box Solution method. These exercises are in view of making workplaces accessible and inclusive. I acted as the co-facilitator again this time.
SOCSO Claims Manager Edmund Cheong explaining the Return To Work Program.
Photo by Wuan.
At the afternoon session, SOCSO Claims Manager Edmond Cheong provided a very detailed presentation on the benefits of the Return To Work Program. This program provides support for workers disabled in the course of employment going back to work after treatment and rehabilitation.
Dr. Kenji Kuno giving presentation on Job Coach at SOCSO.
Photo by Wuan.
That was followed by Dr. Kuno’s talk on Job Coach. This is an initiative by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat Malaysia (JKM) to enable and empower disabled people through gainful employment. Among the many services of Job Coaching are job matching for employers and disabled people, and training and support during employment. Currently, JKM is absorbing the cost of Job Coaching service for employers seeking to hire disabled people.
Group photo with participants at SOCSO Disability Equality Training Workshop – Return To Work Program – Job Coach Seminar.
Photo by Wuan.
Group photo with staff of SOCSO.
Seated L-R: Peter Tan, Roshaimi Mat Rosely, Dr. Kenji Kuno, Gayathri Vadivel and Edmund Cheong.
Photo by Wuan.