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.
I am living with tetraparesis – muscular weakness of all my four limbs. My hands are weak although I have functional use of my arms. I have learnt to live with paralysis and the necessity in doing things differently where I can and use adaptive aids where I cannot.
I renovate the house for wheelchair access. I get the best wheelchair I can afford so that I can be more independent. This is also to protect my shoulders from repetitive strain injury and to improve my posture. Even the wheelchair cushion to protect my buttocks from developing pressure sores costs more than RM1,000.
I got a car, installed a hand control kit and learnt to drive because public transport service is scant when it comes to fulfilling the needs of disabled people who need to move around. Nevertheless, I still prefer buses and trains to driving because I can dispense with the need to transfer from wheelchair to car and vice versa every time I go out.
Over the years, I have spent a handsome amount for adaptive aids and renovations to enable myself to the best of my ability. That, unfortunately, is not enough for me to live a truly fulfilling life. The world outside is fraught with barriers the moment I get out from my house. Danger from bad design and construction lurks at every turn of the corner.
What I cannot understand is why the government continue to allow barriers to be put up despite recognising the importance of accessibility to the built environment for disabled people as promulgated in the Persons with Disabilities Act. Why cannot our country, in the spirit of Malaysia Boleh, put in effort to make the infrastructure accessible to everyone?
Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme for this year is “Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development.” On the national front, Hari OKU will be celebrated on December 4 at Wisma Bernama with the theme “KARISMA OKU: Melonjak Potensi.”
Enough with fancy slogans and themes already! It is time for the government to put into action all the promises made during conferences, press conferences and speeches. I have been in a wheelchair long enough to see that nothing much have been done to alleviate the plight of disabled people.
How many buildings in Malaysia comply with the Uniform Building By-Law 34A since it was gazetted by the various states in Malaysia in the 1990s? Can a disabled person move conveniently around his neighbourhood or catch a bus to go watch a movie?
One good thing is that medical treatment at all government hospitals is free for disabled people. Admittedly, I am a beneficiary of this generosity. However, I would have great difficulty going to the hospital if I do not have my own transport. There is no accessible bus service where I stay
Malaysia is rushing headlong to gain the developed nation status in less than a decade. Unfortunately, I foresee that disabled people in Malaysia will still be stuck in third world infrastructure come that time. This status will have no meaning to disabled people who have to struggle with barriers every step of the way.
So please, Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak, Dato Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and all cabinet ministers, I plead to you with all sincerity to make a commitment to make Malaysia a barrier-free nation by 2020. Don’t just celebrate with us on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Take action to enable and empower us. That is what a caring government must do.