NEW MINISTER FOR WELFARE MINISTER OF MALAYSIA
Disabled Members Protest
ILTC Malaysia members staged a protest outside JPJ Wangsamaju KL.
Thursday, 25 February 2010
Thursday February 25, 2010
The disabled and the elderly in Selangor can look forward to brighter days ahead.
POSITIVE changes continue to unfold for people with disabilities in Selangor. Two significant developments transpired last week which can only improve the quality of lives of Malaysians with disabilities.
The first was a special meeting with a group of physically disabled persons that was held at the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS). I was there, too.
We went there on the invitation of the local council. The purpose was to form a special committee on disability under the MPS.
We were thrilled with the people who met us. They were officers with the capacity to bring about big changes for the handicapped and elderly in town. Those who met us were key representatives from the engineering, planning and building departments of the MPS.
It was a fruitful discussion. At the meeting, it was decided that they would first identify a select group of experts with disabilities to sit in the committee that will meet once a month.
This is similar to what is being done by the Petaling Jaya City Council’s (MBPJ) technical committee on disability, of which I serve as chairman.
The experts, apart from persons with physical disabilities, will include the blind, the Deaf and those with learning disabilities or their representatives.
Whenever possible, stroke patients and those with Parkinson’s disease, mental illness, etc, will be included. The aim of including persons with a wide variety of disabilities is to enable others to learn from their unique experiences and see things from their perspective. People without disabilities are often unfamiliar with the challenges facing the disabled. No textbook in the world can provide such invaluable feedback.
At the MPS meeting, we started our task of creating a disabled-friendly society by examining the local council’s headquarters building.
Next week, a group of disabled people and technical experts from the MPS will comb their building to look out for problem areas and make the necessary changes.
These will be documented and presented to the first OKU (orang kurang upaya or disabled) technical meeting before we venture out into town to look at other buildings.
All of us realised that we had a big task before us. However, we came to the conclusion that such an initiative was important to bring about much-needed changes for the special communities.
These were the same sentiments that were reached at another meeting of 12 local councils in Selangor. This meeting was held the following day at the MBPJ headquarters.
The key players from the planning, engineering, and building departments were asked to focus on collectively building a better world for the physically challenged.
The response was tremendous. Although not many of them took the opportunity to speak, they listened attentively to everything we had to say.
The meeting was jointly chaired by MBPJ’s head of planning Puan Sharipah Marhaini and myself.
We shared our many successes and dreams since we started our special committee on disability.
These included coming up with covered parking lots for the handicapped and a revised up-to-date toilet design with more disabled-friendly features which all new buildings must comply with in Petaling Jaya. Otherwise, no approval will be given for their projects.
We also talked about our personal visits to homes for the elderly and disabled to ensure that they have user-friendly facilities for the residents there.
Our visits uncovered some alarming facts. A few of the homes and centres did not provide such facilities even though they have residents who use wheelchairs and walking sticks.
Marhaini pointed out that such on-the-ground visits served as an eye-opening experience for her.
“What may look good on paper may be a different story in real life,” she said, as she encouraged her colleagues to take a more proactive approach to such issues.
The highlight of the meeting was a pertinent point made by a town planner of a local council. She suggested that in addition to MBPJ – and now MPS – the rest of the 10 councils should follow suit and set up their own technical committees on disability.
However, she pointed out that it was not always practical to expect such a move to come about from the bottom up.
She added that some of us may lack motivation or a sense of urgency. So a more effective approach would be for the local councils to get a directive from the top. I couldn’t agree more.