PEOPLE with disabilities want their human rights to be upheld.
The community stated that it was more important for society to protect the rights of disabled people than merely giving charity handouts.
Selangor Action Council for the Disabled (MTOS) presented six core resolutions to Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh at the OKU Selangor 2019 Convention which took place at Malaysia Agro Exposition Park in Serdang.
The resolutions are political and legal empowerment on the rights; inclusivity; better healthcare, welfare and quality living; economic empowerment as well as long-term economic opportunities; public education facilities for disabled children such as Special Child Education (Anis) set up by Selangor government; and technology assistance as well as multi-sectoral collaboration.
Additionally, MTOS chairman Fahda Nur Ahmad Kamar called for the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 to be reviewed because in its present form, it was more of a “toothless tiger.”
She said the Act was not substantial and it did not call for strict enforcement against those who broke the law.
She highlighted the dire need for implementation of policies through clear guidelines.
“We have the 1% requirement for all sectors to hire persons with disability. However, only the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has fulfilled it.
“The requirement has not been implemented seriously. Why is that so?
“All the different organisations for the disabled must be united and have the same agenda. Only then will the policy-makers be able to hear us as one voice.
“We need political will to fulfil our needs, ” she said.
She hoped the media would play a role in highlighting the positive contributions by the disabled because the public needed to see the economic value of this community.
In education, Fahda said even though schools were now required to accept children with disability, discrimination was still taking place.
“Bullying happens and some of these schools still lack basic universal facilities and qualified teachers for special children.
“In developed countries there are dedicated special offices for the disabled to lodge reports on any form of discrimination, such as at their workplace, towards them. We need such an avenue.
“Currently there is no totality on the rights of the disabled, ” she added.
The disabled community urges the government to establish a commission to safeguard the rights of the disabled more effectively. The government will need to pass a Commission for People with Disabilities Act in order to set up the commission.
Fahda, who has a child with disability, said the government should set up a disability rights office as well as a disabled tribunal rights office right away.
“We have wide range of issues concerning the disabled and we need dedicated attention, ” she said, adding that the group
sympathised with the ministry that was overburdened with women and children’s issues.
Senior consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar Singh, who was among the speakers at the convention, said the general community could play a greater role in providing a holistic support system for the disabled.
“People are quick to give money but not committed to make big changes. This is because we are fragmented racially, financially and socially. We need to find the disability rights in the religious and social aspects too, ” he noted.
He opined that the middle management in the government sector was causing a hindrance to the lower management in conducting their outreach works.
“We can do wonders if the civil service can move better.
“For instance, when a doctor wants to visit the In-Community Rehabilitation Centre (PDK) and disability centres, chances are the hospital’s director would disallow it.
“The director would say the doctor needs to stay in the hospital as part of the job scope.
“I would always say there are needs out there and it may not look like health needs to some but it does to me, ” said Dr Amar.
He cited another example, this time in the education sector.
“There are dedicated and qualified teachers who want to teach special needs children.
“However, the school principal might not want such a child in the school for fear the school’s overall academic performance would drop.
“The policies have now changed with many of our top agencies with people at the ground level wanting to help but our middle management is posing a challenge, ” he added.
Dr Amar wants the modules of medical students to give importance to disabilities.
“Almost 15% of our population have some form of disability.
“Our medical students are taught about Down syndrome and stroke but not about disability.
“We must teach students how to view a person with disability, how to rehabilitate the disabled, how to support them in a community and how to help empower the disabled, ” he emphasised.
In response, Yeoh said a task force would work on reviewing the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008. She estimated that it would take 12 months from January 2020.
“We will make it a ‘biting’ Act once the review is complete, ” she said.
On the request for a commission to look into the rights of the disabled, she said that could be done after the children’s commission under Suhakam proved to be successful.
She added that it would take about two years to set up a department under the Women’s ministry specifically focused on children.
“We are starting with children because based on our data, there were many child deaths, ” said Yeoh.
She explained that setting up a dedicated department involved looking into a restructuring process, which would take place at the Public Service Department.
“We understand the needs of the disabled but we cannot do it simultaneously due to the restructuring process.
“When the department for children’s welfare is a success, we will move on to the disabled and then the ageing group, ” she said.
Yeoh encouraged Selangor departments to lobby for more funds from the Mentri Besar to address the disabled’s issues.
Selangor health, welfare, women empowerment and family committee chairman Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud said MTOS was important to the state to gather input from the disabled community.
She said the Selangor had allocated RM500,000 as aid for Anis, which provides education to children with disability.
The state also has allocation to subsidise tuition fees for special children, under the Didik Anis programme.
Another RM500,000 is set aside by the government for the Rintis Teacher (Cikgu Anis) programme that trains teachers to teach children with special needs.
Dr Siti pointed out that all religions call for inclusion of persons with disability and this must be the fundamental concept that the public should practise.
“This MTOS is the first of its kind in the country. We hope it will be emulated in other states, to set a good framework, ” she added.
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