This memorandum contains the valuable input of members from 24 organizations of, and for, people with disabilities. Organizations that participated represented various disability groups such as the physically disabled, blind, hearing impaired and persons with learning disabilities.
In November 2000 at a forum on �Memorandum on the Employment of Malaysians with Disabilities�, 16 disability organization came together with one aim, that is, to help improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. In February 2001 at a follow-up workshop on the Memorandum, the participation gathered momentum where 20 organizations attended. By the time the final workshop was called to finalize this memorandum, the total number of organizations had grown to 24.
It is our sincere hope that this collaborative effort of ours will bear fruit in the near future. We urge the Ministry of Human Resources and other agencies concerned to lend an empathetic ear to our proposals and recommendations and do the needful to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Malaysia.
LIST OF NGOs THAT PARTICIPATED IN
1. Asia Community Service
EMPLOYMENT OF MALAYSIANS WITH DISABILITIES: REMOVING THE BARRIERS
There are about 220,000 disabled persons in Malaysia with about 95,435 registered with the authorities, but only 3,870 have paid employment. In other words, more than 95% of people with disabilities (PWD) are still unemployed. Although some Malaysians with disabilities may not be able to hold down jobs, a large proportion can still work and contribute to society if given the opportunity and if some workplace modifications are made. It is sad to note that while the government has given jobs to over 2 million foreign workers in Malaysia, they are yet to recognize this huge untapped workforce among PWD.
Malaysians with disabilities now represent a visible, respected and sizable community. While the country is rapidly transforming to meet new challenges of a knowledge-based economy, disabled people are still struggling to obtain basic rights in all areas of life, especially employment. Although various attempts have made some difference, the task ahead continues to be needlessly daunting and will significantly require more resources.
Significant changes are needed in many areas to increase employment opportunities for disabled people in Malaysia. In order to make employment for PWD a reality the following must happen immediately:
� The rights of PWD to employment and the special needs of their circumstances should be taken into account through supportive legislation, strong enforcement and active monitoring
This memorandum is compiled by PWD and their supporters from 24 NGOs, representing various disabled groups in the country. The following pages contain the difficulties and obstacles they face and measures to be taken to eliminate them.
In 1992, amendments made to the Uniform Building By Laws (1984) under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 makes it mandatory for all new buildings to have facilities and amenities for PWD. The Malaysian Standard (MS 1184:91) Code of Practice for Access for Disabled People to Public Buildings is to be incorporated into such buildings. Despite these by-laws, being gazette in every state in Malaysia including Sabah and Sarawak, many buildings and places of employment continue to remain out of limits to Malaysians with disabilities and those seeking employment.
These are inaccessible public and private buildings, such as, schools, colleges, offices, factories, shops, and transport and communication systems. These barriers block and lock PWD out and instantly remind them of their difficulties in achieving gainful employment as Malaysian citizens.
PWD strongly recommend that the respective local authorities should ensure that such enforcement is duly carried out. The Malaysian Standard (MS 1184:91) Code of Practice for Access for PWD to Public Buildings has stipulated the essential requirements and provisions that need to be incorporated into such buildings.
It is important that the workplace is accessible to the disabled employee. We strongly urge that the government and relevant authorities give their cooperation in ensuring that the Building By-Laws are adhered to and that standards for disable-friendly specifications for access are complied with.
Public transport is largely inaccessible to PWD, e.g. System Transit Aliran Ringan (STAR), Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) and buses do not have facilities that meet the accessibility requirements of PWD. There is an urgent need to make public transportation systems friendly to PWD.
Low floored buses which are wheelchair accessible should be introduced. Adequate designated disabled-friendly parking facilities should also be available for PWD who have their own vehicles.
Telephones and the Internet are vital means of communication for most disabled persons. Besides connecting disabled persons to the outside world, information and communications technology (ICT) also enables them to work from home. The present time-based charges for calls are rather inhibiting for disabled persons. The government should revert to the flat-rate charges or a better alternative which will help disabled persons derive maximum benefit from ICT.
The government must view employment issues of the disabled from a holistic perspective. Employment policies for disabled persons must be intimately linked to other policies including access to public buildings and transportation, education, disability awareness, vocational training, information and communications technology and infrastructure development.
PWD face a daunting task when they try to find employment. They have to not only manage the hardships they face as a result of their disability, but also have to compete with able-bodied workers who are recent school and college graduates and those who have been affected by the recent economic downturn.
Many employers are reluctant to hire the services of PWD even though they may possess the necessary skills and qualification for the job. Employers fear increased health insurance costs; the need to provide reasonable but possibly expensive accommodations; and the perceived need to deal with adverse reactions by customers, co-workers, and supervisors, who might be uncomfortable being around PWD.
This involves no extra loading on insurance coverage for PWD. The unnecessary fear of employers that they would face increased health insurance costs, would be alleviated by the above proposal. The other fears and competitive realities are addressed in the following proposals.
The government should highlight currently existing incentives such as double tax deduction for employing the disabled, tax relief on expenses incurred in training and providing modifications to the workplace. This information should be disseminated to the various agencies such as the Ministry of Human Resources, local Labour Department as well as the Malaysian Employer�s Federation.
The government should enact tax credits for employers that conduct disability training for all personnel within the organization. The credit should be available only for 1 year after its establishment. This brief availability period would encourage employers to move quickly toward supporting disability awareness and a new focus on employing individuals with disabilities. The training should be conducted preferably by PWD. The government to reimburse the employers for expenses involved in providing the employees with professional services of sign interpreters for the deaf, free materials in alternative forms for the blind.
Increase job training programs
The existing vocational training facilities run by government and non-government organizations are insufficient to meet the training needs of the disabled population. There is an increasing need for more training courses that provide skills which are more relevant in terms of employment opportunities.
For this to be effective and viable the Ministry must look into the following:
� PWD should have access to low interest loans or grants to encourage them to set up their own businesses in order in order to become self-reliant
Services provided by disability organizations are not necessarily employment focused. The Ministry of Human Resources should identify disability organizations with some expertise in employment training, support and assist in the establishing of such training facilities and encourage other organizations to venture into employment training.
PWD have very limited or no access at all to services and support they need to adequately prepare for, find and maintain employment or be self-employed. If they have access to information about training programs, employment counseling, adaptive equipment and transportation, and in some cases, resources needed to start their own businesses, then more PWD will be able to enter the workforce.
The government should establish a special department within the Ministry of Human Resources to handle job placements for PWD. This Department will provide a centralized, consistent focus to critical disability employment issues. This initiative will heighten disability employment issues within the Ministry of Human Resources. It will provide disability employment advocates the opportunity to network and work together for full inclusion of PWD.
The special department on employment for PWD should be established to disseminate information about innovative or �cutting edge� employment strategies. It should work closely with the Ministry of Human Resources, the Committee for the Encouragement of Employment of the Disabled in the Private Sector, the National Coordinating Council for Disabled Persons and the Ministry of National Unity & Social Development.
This department must be staffed by suitably trained personnel and its functions should include:
A quarterly meeting of disability organizations with the special department Committee for the Encouragement of Employment of the Disabled should be organized by the Placement Officer for consultation and to look into the promotion of employment for PWD.
The joint functions of the special department and the Council should include the following:
PWD, where possible, should be recruited as Job Placement Officers. Knowledge and experience working with different disability groups is an added advantage. They should have an assistant with full training support. The functions of the Job Placement Officers should complement the functions of the special department within the Ministry of Human Resources to oversee employment matters for workers with disabilities.
The Ministry of Human Resources must set aside funds to establish employment or vocational counseling services nationwide and ensure that all disabled applicants are referred to such services when they make application for jobs.
Employment counselors should explain to applicants about the incentives associated with disabled employees and inform applicants of the vocational training and other support that are available to them. Employment counselors should be part of organizations and have expertise in the area of employment of the disabled.
If community support employment programs are made available, a large number of severely disabled persons including those with learning disabilities could return to the community and become gainfully employed. These will include those residing in residential facilities as well. The term �support employment� means paid employment for persons with severe disabilities for whom competitive employment at or above the minimum wage without support is unlikely, and who, because of their disabilities, need intensive ongoing support to perform in a work setting.
The �Buddy System� is based on the idea where a person with learning disability is linked to one or more fellow work colleagues within the employment setting. These persons act as mentors to whom the individual can go to for friendship, advice, support and learning skills. This becomes a two way process where both parties learn from each other which helps the person with a disability settle within the employment setting and solve problems in a discreet way. Potential employers will need to be trained to understand the concept. This should be applied in creative ways in order to help the individual with learning disabilities integrate successfully into the work setting.
�Community Supported Transport� � Support should be offered by the family and service providers for individuals to learn travel skills. However, for individuals who are not able to do this community supported transportation should be provided. Financial support should be offered for projects which provide a subsidized taxi service for individuals with disabilities to get to and from work.
Documentaries should feature key disability leaders, employers of PWD, and disability activists focusing on the positive side of disability employment. Exemplary workers should be filmed and featured. Problem solving views from PWD should be aired. PWD should be involved in writing the script and care should be taken about correct usage of terminologies pertaining to PWD. Wheelchair users, deaf, blind and people with learning disabilities should be featured in regular advertisements depicting them as employees with disabilities.
Incentives could be given to advertisers who portray PWD in a positive manner. However, such advertisements should be vetted by PWD before being aired to avoid possible misinterpretation and abuse.
The existing measures to protect workers such as the sexual harassment code and the various provisions in the Employment Act to protect workers must equally apply to PWD.
Awareness campaigns should be carried out by both the government and private sectors to enable more PWD to get jobs.
The Ministry�s website should also incorporate information about employment opportunities for PWD, disabled-friendly companies and information for and about employers. Such information should be announced in their newsletter. This information should be disseminated through the media, both print and electronic.
INSTITUTIONAL & LEGISLATIVE BARRIERS
Various initiatives were launched since the beginning of the United Nations Decade of PWD (1983-1992) and the Asian and Pacific Decade of PWD (1993-2002). Our government pledged its commitment to improve the lives of PWD by signing the Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of PWD in the Asian and Pacific Region in 1994. Despite this, to this day PWD in Malaysia are still being excluded and marginalized as a result of physical, social and attitudinal barriers.
The government in 1989 committed to reserve 1% of jobs for PWD. In 1990 a National Committee for the Encouragement of Employment of PWD in the private sector was set up. A decade later, despite various incentives such as doubled tax deduction for the employment of disabled workers in the private sector, there has been no significant change. Even the public sector has not set an example in this regard.
To facilitate the implementation of the 1% employment policy the Ministry of Human Resources should reserve a sizeable number of jobs for PWD.
Information about companies that have fulfilled this requirement must be made known to the public on a regular basis. Others must be educated on its implementation. The following incentives for successful implementation of the quota should be considered:
� A special fund, either from the Human Resources Development Fund or other sources must be set up to reimburse employers to make adaptations to their workplace for disabled workers
The Job Placement Officer at the Ministry of Human Resources (when appointed) should be in contact with all disability organizations and must ensure that all information on policies and guidelines on employment of disabled persons are well communicated to all of them. This information should also be made available to all employers through the Ministry of Human Resources through their courses or seminars for employers organized by the Ministry.
This group should comprise selected representatives from disability organizations, the special department within the Ministry of Human Resources, National Coordinating Council for Disabled Persons, and members of the public. This group must meet at least twice a year and the findings must be made public.
Invalidity is defined in the Act as being �incapable of engaging in any substantial gainful activity�. A recipient of invalidity pension loses his eligibility if he engages in any employment. Most of the workers who are permanently disabled but are capable of working end up being recipients of invalidity pensions because they do not have recourse to proper facilities for physical vocational rehabilitation, as provided for in the Act.
The invalidity pension scheme should be reviewed. The pensions should be paid in accordance with the degree of disability. Retraining and vocational rehabilitation facilities should be upgraded with the use of assistive and technological aids to enable the disabled worker to return to his job or be gainfully employed elsewhere.
PWD are greatly disadvantaged by the lack of national policies and legislation needed to create an environment that would bring about their empowerment in terms of equal opportunities and full meaningful participation in society.
Ideally a �Malaysians with Disabilities Act� will lay the foundation for the legal endorsement to the rights of PWD for access to education and vocational training, employment, public transportation, barrier-free environment, information and communications technology and integrated living. While this is being debated, the existing Employment Act should incorporate the fundamental principles of full participation and equality of every Malaysian with disabilities.
The government should consider introducing part-time work as this is most suitable for certain categories of disabled persons. With the advent of ICT, new opportunities are now open to PWD to work from home.
It is a fact that employment is a major concern for PWD in Malaysia. PWD want to work and become economically self-reliant, and in the long run contribute towards the economic development of the country. Economic self-reliance helps restore dignity in a disabled person, as he is able to make independent choices and decisions. Currently many PWD who are capable of working remain unemployed because of the many obstacles they face in society in terms of physical, social, attitudinal and legislative barriers.
We hope the proposals contained in this memorandum will receive due attention. We look forward to working with the Ministry of Human Resources and other relevant agencies as we seek to provide a conductive environment and empower all Malaysians with disabilities to achieve economic self-reliance, independent living, inclusion and integration into every aspect of society
Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of
1. We the government leaders of ESCAP members and associate members recognize that:
2. We note that in Asian and Pacific societies minimum care and service are, to a large extent, provided for PWD in the traditional family and community context. However, much more must be done to enable PWD to develop their Full potential so that they may live as agents of their own destiny in the rapidly changing economic and social conditions of the region.
3. Throughout the region, the opportunities for full participation and equality for PWD, especially in the fields of rehabilitation, education and employment, continue to be far less than those for their non-disabled peers. This is largely because negative social attitudes exclude PWD from an equal share in their entitlements as citizens. Such attitudes also curtail the opportunities of PWD for social contact and close personal relationships with others. The social stigma associated all too often with disabilities must be eradicated.
4. The built environment throughout much of Asia and the Pacific has been designed without consideration for the special needs of PWD. Physical obstacles and social barriers prevent citizens with disabilities from participating in community and national life. The various impediments to participation and equality are especially formidable for girls and women with disabilities. With improved attitudes, increased awareness and much care, we can build social and physical environments that are accessible for all, i.e., we must work towards a society for all. In this regard, we urge the free exchange of information.
5. We take pride in the fact that in economic terms, Asia and the Pacific is the fastest growing region in the world today. We are also aware that countries in this region are at different levels of development. We resolve that economic progress will also be reflected in the efforts that we devote to this extremely vulnerable social group in our societies: PWD.
6. We welcome the adoption by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific of Resolution 48/3 on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002, as a catalyst for effective new policy initiatives and actions at national, sub-regional and regional levels aimed at systematically improving the conditions of PWD, who constitute approximately one-tenth of our total population, and for harnessing their full development potential.
7. We thus proclaim and pledge our joint commitment to translating into action in our respective countries and territories the ideals and objectives of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, and confirm our continued endeavor in accordance with the United Nations Charter�s affirmation of faith ��in the dignity and worth of the human person��
Under the Agenda for Action for the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002, twelve areas of concerned have been identified. A framework for the formation of the agenda has been drawn up. The framework consists of the major policy categories under which efforts will be required for the implementation of ESCAP resolution 48/3. The basic policy categories include national coordination, legislation, information, public awareness, accessibility and communication, education, training and employment, prevention of causes of disabilities, rehabilitation services, assistive devices, self-help organizations and regional co-operation.
Training and Employment:
g) Training of PWD:
This documentation is courtesy of the International Lab our Organization.
Convention concerning Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) (Note: Date of coming into force: 20.06.1985.)
The General Conference of the International Lab our Organization.
Having been convened at Geneva by the Governing Body of the International Lab our Office and having met in its Sixty-ninth Session on 1st June 1983, and
Noting the existing international standards contained in the Vocational Rehabilitation (Disabled) Recommendation, 1955, and the Human Resources Development Recommendation, 1975, and
Considering that the year 1981 was declared by the United Nations General Assembly the International Year of Disabled Persons, with the theme �full participation and equality� and that a comprehensive World Program of Action concerning Disabled Persons is to provide effective measures at the international and national levels for the realization of the goals of full participation of disabled persons in social life and development, and of equality, and
Considering that these developments have made it appropriate to adopt new international standards on the subject which take account, in particular, of the need to ensure equality of opportunity and treatment to all categories of disabled persons, in both rural and urban areas, for employment and integration into the community, and
Having decided upon the adoption of certain proposals with regard to vocational rehabilitation which is the fourth item on the agenda of the session, and
Having determined that these proposals shall take the form of the international Convention, adopts the 20th June 1983, the following Convention, which may be cited as the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention 1983.
Part II. Principles of Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Policies for Disabled Persons
Part III. Action at the National Level for the Development of Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services for Disabled Persons
PART IV. PROVISIONS
Memorandum On Employment for PWDs
Memorandum On Employment for PWDs