In the second of our two-part series to look at how caring Malaysians are towards the blind, M. KRISHNAMOORTHY, who took to the streets posing as a blind man, and JASON SUNDRAM, talk to affected individuals and groups to find out more about their plight.
M. MOOGANA, 16, a blind student in Form Three, is not only the brunt of jokes among her schoolmates but also gets bullied and pushed around at school. She says putting up with her physical constraints is easier than the emotional problems that she faces daily.
“Being blind does not mean that I am not human. People don’t have to push me around just because I am blind.
“When I ask students the way to the canteen, they run away and don’t help. Some pranksters even show me the wrong way to places I don’t know.
“They should treat others as they like to be treated. Even if you are unable to help others, at least you can avoid doing harm,” said the SMK Alma, Bukit Mertajam student.
She is among an estimated 50,000 blind people in Malaysia, of whom only about 14,000 are registered with the Government as disabled.
Malaysian Association for the Blind president Datuk Dr Ismail Salleh said that when it came to helping the blind, Malaysians generally shied away from taking the initiative.
“People should practise the motto of 'help ever, hurt never.'
“They seem to be shy to do even a simple thing like helping the disabled cross the road.
They must be bold to show the rest that there is nothing wrong in volunteering to help a needy person.
I think this must be inculcated in children when they are young.
“Parents have an important role here,” he added.
On the Government and media's part, he said there was a need to raise the level of awareness among people on the need to help the blind, adding that it was time Malaysians broke out of this apathy towards the disabled.
“If you see a blind person walking and see potholes in the area, feel free to guide them and caution them.
“Help them when they are waiting for a bus. This may seem a small help but it is a big thing for the blind
“People have to understand that it is difficult for blind people to move around, especially on the streets and roads of Malaysia,” he said.
Blind masseurs K.M. Gunasegaran and Pinin Kapal of Mega Blind Massage at SS2 in Petaling Jaya said they had fallen down a few times, injuring themselves and not being able work for about a month.
“When we get injured, no one can help us and our rice bowl is affected,” said Gunasegeran, a father of two.
They also complained that buses often did not stop and they had to wait for a long time as a result.
“When the buses do stop, the conductor does not accept money from us. However, some passengers are reluctant to give any assistance.
“While many cabbies are an understanding lot, some unscrupulous ones exploit us by driving us around in circles and overcharge us,” Gunasegaran said.
Pinin said when they entered coffee shops to have a drink, waiters at certain restaurants did not serve them.
“They fear we are unable to pay for our drinks and meals.
“We may be blind but we are not beggars and we can afford to pay for our meals with dignity,” he said.
Gunasegaran complained that sometimes when they bought food they were sold expired items.
To improve the quality of life for the blind, he said the Government should assist in providing low-cost housing for them with much easier repayment terms.
“They should provide interest-free loans for us. Some of us earn as low as RM500 a month and we just cannot afford a home. We just don't want to become a burden to relatives and friends,” he added.
Society of the Blind in Malaysia president Mah Hassan Omar also said there was a need to create awareness on how people could help the blind.
“Blind people have the same rights and we are not asking for crutches but only help where absolutely necessary.
“One area is employing the blind. I do not understand why employers are not recruiting blind people when they are qualified and experienced in certain areas,” said Mah Hassan, who was the nation’s first blind lawyer.
He said facilities for the disabled were lacking in many public buildings despite the constant reminder by the Government.
The society’s secretary-general Mohammed Nazari Othman said: “Generally, Malaysians are a caring lot. In a basket, there are good apples and bad apples and some people are not helpful when it comes to helping the blind.
“In the city, people are busy running around and don’t look around to help the blind.
“If people can cultivate the feeling to help then it would be a great place for the blind to move around easily.”
For this group of people, all the development in Malaysia will mean nothing if the authorities and society continue ignoring their special needs.
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