Call for more focus on disabled

PETALING JAYA: While policies to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities (PWD) exist, gaps remain in terms of infrastructure, employment and access to health, said Selangor executive councillor and chairman of the state Public Health, Unity, Women and Family Committee, Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud.

She urged local authorities to study, adopt and implement universal design standards that are used in public amenities to ensure easy access for PWD, adding that engagement with contractors on meeting specifications would also be necessary.

“I realise there is a gap and although we trained local council officers, there are still no specifications for design (for PWD accessibility). This must be rectified.

“Each development must be inclusive and based on universal design concepts that can be accessed by the 7,000 people who are registered as being visually impaired in Selangor,” Siti Mariah said in her speech during an International Disabled Day event organised by the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB).

She also said the target to have 1% employment of PWD in the public service was lacking.

“Although the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has stressed that 1% of vacancies in the public sector is meant for PWD, this has yet to gain traction,” she said, adding that a solution must be implemented to ensure such job placements are met.

“The problem does not lie with the PWD, but with those who are able-bodied. They do not know how to interact with a PWD.”

She said the onus is on individuals to have the right information through awareness programmes aimed at educating the public.

“This is a communication problem,” she said, adding that issues focused on PWD have since shifted from welfare-based to ensuring their rights are met.

The 1% employment policy was introduced in 1988 and was strengthened through Circular No. 16 on Dec 15, 2010.

Siti Mariah said a national disability insurance scheme that provides support to PWD based on individual needs would be a boost in terms of support.

There are 579,150 PWD registered under the Social Welfare Department, which manages the PWD registry.

MAB chief executive officer George Thomas lauded the call to create a more inclusive considerations for PWD, especially in the workforce.

He also shared concern about the low rate in employing visually impaired people.

“There is a lack of awareness on the capability of the blind, despite MAB championing their efforts since it was established in 1951 to look after the general well-being of blind people.

“The words ‘physically disabled’ or ‘blind’ still leave some employers reeling as they would have to make the workplace environment suitable for them. Employers lack awareness about how to handle those who are visually impaired, although we have been trying to educate and create public awareness,” he said.

Meanwhile, former senator Bathmavathi Krishnan said Malaysia should place greater emphasis on improving the first-mile and last-mile transit connectivity
for PWD.

She said the government should roll out door-to-door transit services, which include vans with hydraulic ramps, to take physically impaired people to and from public transport stations.

Siti Mariah said individuals should seek awareness on PWD through programmes aimed at educating the public. – AMIRUL SYAFIQ MOHD DIN/THESUN