KLANG: Whenever an evacuation is carried out in disaster-hit areas, it is not unusual for the disabled, especially wheelchair users, to choose to remain home.
This is because our relief centres are largely not universally-accessible, ranging from the absence of ramps, all the way to the lack of suitable toilets.
Wheelchair users also need beds as sleeping on the floor makes it difficult for them to get back on their wheelchairs.
Hence, Malaysian Spinal Chord Injury Advocacy Association secretary Dr Basri Husin hopes the Perlindungan Ekonomi dan Rakyat Malaysia (Permai) assistance package announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will address this shortfall.
He welcomed the extension of tax exemptions for computers, cellphones, and tablets worth below RM2,500 until the end of the year as it will allow more disabled people to buy these devices that are much needed under the new norm.
"The movement control order is very restrictive for disabled people, who have now mostly turned to online businesses to make a living.
"So this is good," Basri said, adding that the disabled also needed these devices to access the various free online entrepreneurship courses currently offered by various agencies and institutions.
Disability Equality Training facilitator Peter Tan said the Permai stimulus package was necessary.
"The special tax relief for computers, cellphones and tablets, and the free 1G data, is a welcome relief as work and education have moved online.
"These will somewhat alleviate the financial hardships we are facing in these difficult times," added Tan.
However, he wondered how the GLIC/GLC Disaster Relief Network allocation would be used to alleviate the challenges faced by the disabled (OKU), who are very vulnerable during trying times such as this.
"We need more robust support and assistance as we are relatively more affected by this pandemic.
"Now is as good as any time to truly implement a disability-inclusive plan to ensure we are neither left behind nor an afterthought in situations like this," said Tan.
Damai Disabled Persons Association president V. Murugeswaran is also happy with the government’s timeline for tax exemption for purchases of smartphones, tablets and computers.
The most attractive package to him, added Murugeswaran, was the RM25mil allocation under the GLIC/GLC Disaster Relief Network.
"Although the detail as to how and to whom these monies will be allocated has not been mentioned anywhere yet, I hope the government will ensure that the allocation is given to all OKU in Malaysia, who are equally affected during this pandemic," said Murugeswaran.
He also hoped the government will look into allocating more money to help all registered OKU in Malaysia, especially those not on the government monthly cash aid list, if the RM25mil is insufficient to cover all.
"Based on current data, only 199,000 (or one-third) of the 581,265 OKU registered under the Welfare Ministry are getting financial aid every month," said Murugeswaran.
A member of the National Council for the Disabled, Dr Ruziah Ghazali, hopes the government will also look into providing special provisions for the disabled to register their business with the Registrar of Companies.
She added many of the disabled have not registered their businesses because they feared losing their welfare benefits and other special allocations if they are business owners.
"But their business makes very little profit and takes time to stabilise, and so on, they need welfare benefits and other special allocations to sustain themselves," said Dr Ruziah who is the former honorary adviser of the Little People National Organisation of Malaysia.
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