AN advocate for the rights of the disabled believes that the country has under-reported the number of handicapped people.
Assoc Prof Dr Tiun Ling Ta (pic) said this was due to the ignorance of pollsters when conducting a census and lack of cooperation from families.
He said last year, Malaysia declared that about 450,000 people were registered as disabled while the United Nations’ (UN) average official figure reveals that between five and 10% of a nation’s population should be proclaimed disabled.
In Malaysia, with a population base of 27 million, the figure 450,000 translates to only around 1.5% of Malaysians being listed as disabled.
“There exists a degree of discrepancy on how we survey such a segment of society.
“There is even a disparity in the figures between the Health as well as the Women, Family and Community Development Ministries,” Dr Tiun claimed.
Another stumbling block, he added, was that since it is not compulsory for the disabled to register as one, many shy away unless they need help from the authorities.
He pointed out that some pollsters were not well-trained to identify the disabled, especially those who wanted to hide their disabilities.
“There is also a cultural issue as families with Asian values tend to hide their children’s or relatives’ disabilities out of shame,” he said.
Dr Tiun, who is also a Seberang Prai municipal councillor, said this at a workshop on access audit for the disabled, organised by the St Nicholas Home For the Blind.
On public accessibility facilities for the disabled, Dr Tuin said more could be done to generate awareness among developers, architects and engineers.
“We lack a political will to ensure that the rights of the disabled are protected when it comes to public facilities.
“For example, there is apathy when it comes to closing an eye when the public notice able-bodied motorists parking in slots reserved for the disabled,” he said.
Another setback for the community is the lack of enforcement among the local authorities in ensuring that the facilities and slots reserved for the disabled are not abused.
The one-day workshop, opened by the Home’s board chairman Rev Bishop Andrew Phang See Yin, was aimed at introducing the participants to auditing public facilities for the disabled, while getting more auditors to work with the public and private sectors in generating adequate awareness about the plight of the disabled.