Lots more can be done


New year starters which can make life easier for the disabled.

FOR most people, celebrating a birthday may mean having a generally good time with friends.

For Chong Tuck Meng who hails from Bentong, Pahang, there was much soul-searching to do when he turned 50 on Dec 22 last year.

“Hitting the big 5-0 is a major milestone, especially when you are disabled,” says Chong, the founder of Perwira K9, an association for people with spinal cord injuries.

Chong, a wheelchair user, says he is lucky to be alive today, following an accident which left him paralysed from the neck down, and killed his best friend.

“I can’t believe how I’ve managed to get this far after being paralysed for 30 years,” says Chong. “I have to depend on others for assistance in virtually everything in my life.”

Chong, who has undergone nearly 30 operations, needs help from the moment he wakes up until he retires for the night.

He needs assistance to sit up, get from his bed to his wheelchair, go to the bathroom and put on his clothes.

Despite his hardship, Chong harbours no bitterness and is even inspired to help others who are in a similar situation. He coaches basketball and rugby players who are wheelchair-users.

What he finds really difficult to handle are prejudiced thinking from the public, an unfriendly environment for wheelchairs and the lack of public transportation for the physically handicapped.

“The Government can clearly do much more to make the lives of the disabled easier,” says Chong.

The following are Chong’s suggestions on ways to improve the lot of the disabled:

National budgets

Goodies for the disabled should get better with each passing year. As it is, the proposals look good in some years, but lacklustre in others. “In 2012, I hope to see budgets that can help raise the quality of lives of all disabled Malaysians,” says Chong.

New mindset

Instead of seeing the disabled as “people with less ability” (OKU, or orang kurang upaya), let’s see them as “special citizens” (warga istimewa). Changing the negative perceptions about disabled Malaysians to positive ones should start with our television channels.

A voice in Parliament

Please choose the right person who knows what suffering is like, instead of an academician. Remember, even doctors have no idea what our lives are like unless they are in our shoes!

Involve the disabled

Please include the disabled in all matters that affect them. We have seen too many events organised for the disabled but without their participation at the decision-making level. The results have often been disastrous: irrelevant issues and inaccessible venues. Nothing about the disabled without the disabled!

Add bite to the Disability Act

Disabled Malaysians are unable to use the Act to protect themselves or take action against people who refuse to employ them or misuse facilities meant for them. What is the point of being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities if disabled Malaysians’ rights and privileges are not protected?

Focus on the disabled

This is important because disabled persons are the most vulnerable and neglected among the marginalised communities. More funds should be channelled to help the disabled. Each disabled person should be given a monthly allowance of RM500 to help meet daily expenses and medical costs.

Telecommunication

The Government should encourage all telco and Internet service providers to exercise their corporate social responsibility by giving out better and more affordable packages for subscribers with disabilities. This will ensure that many handicapped Malaysians are able to work from home.

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