Thursday March 31, 2011
Change for the better
SOMETHING wonderful has transpired for people with disabilities in Selangor. The move to raise the quality of life of Malaysians with disabilities was discussed at a press conference held at the Selangor state secretariat building last Friday.
When it was over, all of us in wheelchairs and those with other types of disabilities couldn’t stop beaming from ear to ear just thinking how our lives will be changed for the better.
It started at a press conference called by Ronnie Liu, chairman of the state’s local government, study and research committee.
More than half a dozen non-governmental organisations for people with disabilities turned up. They were well represented. The deaf community was there along with the blind. A representative of persons with learning disabilities was also present.
Even wheelchair users were well-represented. There was someone who was paralysed from the neck down, those handicapped from the waist down, someone with walking difficulties, and even a woman with brittle bones.
Many do not realise that wheelchair users do not necessarily have the same needs. Depending on their level of paralysis, their special needs often differ from one another.
We were all there to form a special committee at the state level.
Headed by Liu as the adviser, the committee meetings will be chaired by a disabled person. Our mission is to spend the next three months visiting all the 11 local councils in Selangor to help them set up a disability committee.
The Petaling Jaya City Council is an exception because it already has an active disability committee.
The purpose of setting up such committees is to ensure that local councils will actively pursue programmes for the handicapped and elderly citizens.
The committee will monitor the progress of each local council in creating a barrier-free environment that benefits everyone.
It was highlighted that positive changes like this can only come about when the local councils actively engage people with disabilities in their building plans.
Liu underscored the importance of local councils in working with NGOs for the disabled. In addition to the setting up of the committee, the following issues were also raised at the press conference:
> The special committee under Liu will provide the names of the NGOs for each of the local councils.
> The committee will be involved in educational programmes. Liu set aside RM10,000 for the committee. A special forum is being planned for all local councils throughout the country in June. It is aimed at encouraging local councils to set up disability committees of their own.
> A special booklet on how to set up disabled committees in local councils will be compiled by the special committee.
> Plans are also under way to look into a welfare allowance for disabled persons in the state. It was suggested that the Selangor government consider a monthly allowance of at least RM500 for each disabled person. Currently, not all disabled Malaysians are entitled to financial aid.
> A study will be carried out to look into changing local by-laws to penalise people who abuse facilities for the handicapped. These include non-disabled persons who park in lots allocated for the disabled, as well as building managements that turn disabled toilets into store rooms.
> The Selangor government will look into ensuring that all multi-storey buildings are equipped with lifts for the benefit of the wheelchair-bound and the elderly. One way is to come up with incentives for developers who provide such facilities.