Voice of the disabled

Yeong (second from left) helping some of the slow learners with their handicrafts.

Yeong (second from left) helping some of the slow learners with their handicrafts.

Slow learners and people with learning disabilities usually struggle to find a job.

Not only are they challenged academically, many also lack social skills and do not have the confidence to communicate effectively.

There is help though as many self-help groups have been formed to help these individuals prepare for the working world.

United Voice is a self-advocacy society for persons with learning disabilities.

United Voice lead coordinator Yeong Moh Soong said its membership included those with Down syndrome, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cerebral palsy, global developmental delay and other types of learning disabilities.

The society has 300 members. The yearly membership fee is RM20 and those over the age of 14 can join.

“Our goal is to ensure persons with learning disabilities are given the right to work, socialise, contribute and be respected.

“We provide them with a platform to speak up. Slow learners are rarely given an opportunity to express themselves, therefore, they are not able to develop their social skills,” she said.

United Voice also monitors the progress of members who have landed jobs.

Popular sectors include the hospitality and retail industries as well as office jobs.

“We check on them after they join an organisation. Earlier, we did not monitor their progress and some would quit after a few months.”

“Many suffer from low self-esteem and they need support and guidance. Now, we stay in touch and help them when necessary,’’ she said.

One of their former members has been working in Giant Hypermaket for five years.

“She was featured in a StarMetro story recently. We are very proud of her and it is encouraging to see her progress,’’ said Yeong.

Jennifer Ooi Phaik Hoon sewing her handicraft at United Voice.
Jennifer Ooi Phaik Hoon, one of the members of United Voice, working on her project.

Besides offering job coaching, the society also offers employment to about 30 members.

They produce greeting cards, bookmarks, T-shirts, woven products, magnets, key chains, cookies and business cards. A gift shop and art gallery were set up at United Voice in 2010 to showcase the work produced by them.

Yeong said the learning disabled have the same dreams and aspirations like normal people but need to work harder to achieve their goals.

Peggy Lee Pei San a slowlearner at United Voice is focused while she is stitching her handicraft.
Peggy Lee Pei San is focused with ther needlework.

“We had a boy who told us he wanted to save the money he earned to buy a motorbike. While another told us he wants to earn a living so he can get married.

“We tell them that all these would require responsibility and they need to put in a lot of hard work to achieve them,” said Yeong.

The Society of Families of Persons with Learning Difficulties (Perkobp) was formed by a group of parents in 1993.

Perkobp executive secretary Chng Cheng Hui, was among the pioneer 25 families which formed the organisation.

They wanted to ensure the learning disabled would have vocational skills to fall back on.

“My son was four when this society was formed,’’ noted Chng.

At Perkobp, these children received training to do jobs like packing sauces and plastic spoons for a fast food chain while developing skills at the same time.

“These tasks may seem simple to most, but they require skills like concentration and team work,” he said.

Over the years, some 60 members have entered the workforce.

The society also offers skills training in fields like baking, laundry and gardening.

*United Voice is located at Jalan 17/12, Seksyen 17, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Visit www.facebook.com/unitedvoicemalaysia or call 016-314 4581.

*Society of Families of Persons with Learning Difficulties (Perkobp) is located at No 4, Jalan BK1/9A, Bandar Kinrara 1, Puchong, Selangor. Visit www.perkobp.org or call 016-292 8438.