Badan Latihan dan Hidup Berdikari Malaysia (ILTC) pada 23hb Mac 2016 menyerahkan memorandum kepada ahli-ahli parlimen mendesak supaya golongan orang kurang upaya (OKU) dikecualikan daripada cukai barangan dan perkhidmatan (GST).

Disabled Members Protest

Disabled Members Protest
Disabled Members Protest at JPJ Wangsa Maju

ILTC Malaysia members staged a protest outside JPJ Wangsamaju KL.

ILTC Malaysia members staged a protest outside JPJ Wangsamaju KL.
Disabled group’s protest disabled drivers required to produce doc's medical report.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Living with a disability

Thursday June 2, 2011

Living with a disability


If it is within our means to make life better for others, what is there to hold us back?

DURING the early years, not a single day went by without me wishing that the whole ordeal was just a nightmare. It got to a point where I would hit my cheeks hard, hoping to wake up and put an end to my misery. The pain, however, did not come from the self-inflicted bruises on my face. When reality sank in like fangs, the emotional pain was unbearable.

The timing couldn’t be worse. At a time when my peers where all set to let their hair down after spending 11 years in school, I had to endure yet another test which determined not what my future might hold, but whether I’d pull through in a life-and-death situation.

I survived, of course, but how was I to cope with this cruel twist of fate? I was 18 then, with the world before me, waiting to be explored, when tragedy struck. I was riding pillion on my friend’s bike, when we were knocked down by a car. My best friend was killed in the accident, while I was left with a spinal injury.

The writer, Ahmad Daniel Sharani

Coping with the physical pain was one thing. It was worse when I learnt I could never walk again. That hurt the most. Freedom lies at your feet, I used to think. My legs would literally take me places. Now all that would change.

Being confined at home – that’s the last place a young man wants to be – when the spirit yearns to roam free.

Being physically disabled means you’re dependent on others to get even the simplest things done. A few sessions of physiotherapy may do wonders but not when the mind’s weak and in distress.

In fact, the mere sight of a newly-bought wheelchair repulsed me. Acceptance did not come easy. Cliched as it may sound, time heals everything. It took me quite a while before I finally gathered enough courage to face the world again.

Back then, it was quite a feat even to go a short distance outside my house. As a result, I spent most of the time in the comfort of my home.

I remember one evening though, a few friends and I decided to try out a highly recommended restaurant in town. It was supposed to be a fun outing. A combo of good food and good company – a simple recipe for a pleasant night out. Nothing could possibly go wrong, right?

But who am I kidding? When you’re in a wheelchair, a lot of things can go wrong. As we found out, getting into the restaurant itself was a big challenge for wheelchair-users like me. Patrons had to climb up a flight of stairs, the only access to the restaurant.

The only option that day – and on many other occasions – was to carry my wheelchair up the stairs which my friends gladly obliged. It was no mean feat. We were quite a sight, indeed.

Had I known this particular restaurant lacked basic disabled-friendly facilities, I would have given it a skip. The last thing I wanted during a rare day out was to feel unwelcome. Besides, I don’t want my friends to risk breaking their backs!

The dinner turned out well, if not for the early hiccup which left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth.

After that incident, I was more guarded when it came to dining out.

On another occasion, I turned up at a reunion dinner but the sight of so many concrete obstacles that stood between me and the bistro where the event was held, made me turn back in frustration. I gave the dinner a miss.

No, these incidents did not stop me from eating out.

Much as I look forward to a day out without a hitch, the problem of inaccessibility weighs heavily on my mind.

We often read about the culinary adventures of foodies who write about the quality of the food, the services, the ambience and the overall hygiene of the outlets.

For wheelchair users, however, we have a few extra worries to think about, chief of which is the issue of accessibility. And forget about the toilet’s cleanliness; getting into one itself is a herculean task.

It’s wonderful of food writers to share their experiences, and provide recommendations of where to head to for some gastronomic excitement. But if the writers must know, the disabled community are diners, too. Just like our able-bodied counterparts, we do read these columns and salivate at the sight of the scrumptious spread in print.

For many, the write-up is good enough to help them decide there and then, to check out the outlet reviewed at the next available opportunity. But for wheelchair-users, we would really appreciate an extra line or two, to inform us if the outlet is generally disabled-friendly or wheelchair-accessible. Such information is essential for wheelchair-users who, like everyone else, love to eat out occasionally.

Imagine turning up at the place, only to find that it’s out of bounds. Besides, wheelchair-users include the elderly. Those who want to take their elderly parents out for the night, would appreciate knowing if there are ramps for their parents’ wheelchairs. The ramps will also come in handy for young couples with babies in strollers.

Maybe the disabled community should just resign to the fact that restaurants located in old shophouses are not compelled to provide wheelchair-friendly ramps. But a bigger question that comes to mind is: what about those situated in newly constructed buildings which have blatantly disregarded the Uniform Building By-Laws (UBBL) by operating their premises without providing disabled-friendly infrastructure?

In Malaysia, it is mandatory for public buildings to provide facilities for the disabled. Under the UBBL, namely by-law 34A, which was amended way back in September 1990, it is clearly stated that it is compulsory for buildings to provide access for disabled persons. Buildings which were built before the amendment of the by-law are given three years from the date of commencement, to make modifications to comply with the regulations.

Be as it may, we see many buildings – both old and new – which are not disabled-friendly. When there’s no enforcement, law-breakers have a field day.

But then again, playing the blame game is the last thing we want to be caught up in. Instead of pointing fingers, everyone could play their part in the name of social responsibility by making the environment a better place for all.

Co-operation from all quarters – from the law-enforcers to the building developer right to the restaurant owners, and even useful information from the media – will to some extent, move more disabled persons to get out of their cocoons and rejoin society.

Encouragement – that’s the magic word. Food writers and those in the media may want to take note of this. Information empowers us and encourages us to get out of the house more often.

In turn, restaurateurs will be driven to make their eateries more disabled-friendly, by providing a simple ramp for wheelchair-users. Apart from making life easier for their customers who consist of people from all walks of life, they can cash in on this.

After all, the disabled community are Malaysians, too, And knowing our passion for good food, the first stop out of our homes would be the eateries.

By-laws or not, the ball really is in the restaurant operator’s court. We hope they will not wait for the authorities to come down hard on them before making a change.

Similarly, they can always ignore our plea and carry on with business as usual and just hope the authorities will continue to sleep on the job. Bear in mind, however, that there are many restaurants and bistros around, and surely some would not mind taking the cue.

It is heartening to note that food courts which have sprung up around town, have taken heed of the bylaws by providing ramps, giving their outlets an edge over their insensitive competitors.

In any case, it boils down to choices. We won’t hesitate to support businesses which show they have a heart for the disabled or the disadvantaged in society.

We have the interest of our special needs readers close to heart, and hence the name of this new fortnightly column. We welcome contributions from readers who are living with a disability of one form or another. Share with us experiences that are uniquely yours. Give us a glimpse of your world. E-mail your stories to Contributions which are published will be paid, so please include your full name, IC number, address and telephone number.

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