GEORGE TOWN: It took them 17 years before they could seal their love, but the long wait was all worthwhile for disabled couple Rozihad Yahaya and Md Shahell Md Yusof when they finally tied the knot at the Stepping Stone Work Centre in Balik Pulau.
The couple had to wait it out to get the blessing from both sides of the family for their union.
Md Shahell, 41, who works at the centre’s bakery specialising in bread and pineapple rolls, has low visual impairment and cognitive disability while Rozihad, 51, is an artisan weaver with cognitive disability at the centre run by the Asia Community Service since 2000.
On the day of their bersanding ceremony (sitting together on the bridal dais) held at the centre over the weekend, Md Shahell said they started out as friends before love blossomed.
“From friendship, it developed into love. It just happened.
“When I proposed to her and she agreed, I was the happiest man,” he said.
Rozihad said she was happy that both their families finally gave their consent and blessing.
“We did not want to get married without both our families’ blessing and until then, we waited.
“Now, I am so happy, excited and looking forward to spending happy days with Shahell,” said the radiant bride on the dais.
Centre chief executive officer Khor Ai-Na said the couple’s solemnisation ceremony (akad nikah) was held on Oct 22.
“Together with our staff and volunteers from Germany, the United States and Japan, we wanted to host this joyful event for Md Shahell and Rozihad as both of them have been with us for several years now.
“This is possibly the first-ever known love marriage between persons who have cognitive/learning disabilities in Malaysia.
“We hope that this wedding will create a positive impression that despite their challenges, people with intellectual disabilities do have feelings and emotions; they can love and be loved,” said Khor.
“And that they have the right to relationships and marriage.”
Also present was centre chairperson Datuk Gillian Teh.
German volunteer Jana Akkermann, 34, who attended the ceremony with her husband Lutz Hofmann, 60, said it was her first Malay bersanding experience.
“It is my first time in Malaysia and I am volunteering here for eight weeks before leaving on Feb 5.
“It is really sweet to see Shahell and Rozihad sealing their 17-year love and they have every right to live happily, like all of us,” she said.
Akkermann also said she appreciated the support and love shown by the local community for the couple.
“I also love to see how the dais and the decorations were all put together, including the matching wedding trousseau,” she said.
The couple arrived at the centre for the ceremony on a bicycle ridden by Md Shahell as they usually come to work on their bicycles.
Guests, family members, staff of the centre and volunteers also lined both sides of the entrance to the centre to greet the couple.
Later, the couple and guests were treated to a silat performance before enjoying a feast, which included nasi minyak, chicken curry, vegetables, egg gravy, laksa and traditional Malay kuih.
The centre is a workplace for persons with intellectual disabilities and also a support centre for community living.
Members are involved in creative artisan work such as batik painting, tie and dye, handloom weaving, pottery, soap and paper making, and recycling activities. They also run a small bakery.