MIRI: The Society of the Blind Malaysia (Sarawak branch) has appealed to both the state and federal welfare ministries to prioritise aid to the 40,000 disabled people in Sarawak.
Of this number, at least 10% are blind.
Society chairman Isak Ngau, who is blind, told StarMetro that the society was worried for the visually impaired and physically disabled people in Sarawak as many had no income during this pandemic.
“For almost a month now, those of us involved in the massage business, street buskers and those selling and crafting handicraft have been suffering badly.
“Our business has dropped to almost nothing. We have no fixed monthly income, ” said Ngau.
He added that only a handful of them who had jobs in the private sector or with government departments received a regular salary.
“The rest of us, who are blind and wheelchair-bound, survive on a day-to-day basis, ” he said.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak, Ngau said most of their massage business and street music operations had to stop.
“The restricted public movement over the past week saw the cancellation of public transportation like express boats and buses, which has made life even harder for us, ” he said, adding that about half of the disabled population lived in rural districts.
“But how can we travel out to the towns to get financial aid offered by the federal and state governments since all buses and boats have stopped operating?” he asked.
He pointed out that river and land transport terminals in big districts like Kuching, Serian, Sri Aman, Saratok, Tanjung Manis, Sarikei, Sibu, Kanowit, Mukah, Song, Kapit, Bintulu, Belaga, Miri, Marudi, Long Lama, Limbang and Lawas have all halted their operations.
Ngau, a recipient of The Star Golden Heart Award in 2017, pleaded with the authorities to consider the needs of the 35,000 wheelchair-bound and 4,000 blind people in the state.
“It would be ideal if financial aid to this group can be channelled to them in cash form as most cannot go to the banks or welfare offices, ” he added.