Memorandum To National Economic Consultative Council II

This Memorandum is submmited to National Economic Consultative Council on 15th August 2000

INTRODUCTION

The past two decades of the twentieth century witnessed an increasing awarsness of issues faced by people with disabilities both in Malaysia and internationally. These developments were in part the result of the various United Nations initiatives; the International Year of the People With Disabilities (1982) followed by the UN Decade of People with Disabilities with its World Program of Action (1983-1993) and the Asian and Pacific Decade of People With Disabilities (1993-2002). These programs have two primary objectives: 

1. To achieve an equal share in the opportunities and improved living conditions resulting from social and economic development for people with disabilities. 
2. To promote effective measures for the prevention of disability, rehabilitation and the realisation of the goals of full participation and equality of people with disabilities in social life and economic development. 

Malaysia’s commitment in honouring these initiatives was further reinforced through the signing of the Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asia Pacific Region on May 16, 1994. One of the major results of these initiatives was the birth of a new approach to disability issues, in many countries, that recognised the: 

1. Citizenship rights of people with disabilities; and 
2. Social and environmental nature of obstacles to the achievement of self-reliance and full equality by people with disabilities. 

It is with appreciation that we recognise that there have been important and significant measures taken towards the achievement of these objectives by the Malaysian government. Some examples of the government’s commitment are: 

1. The formulation of a national welfare policy (1990) 
2.The introduction of tax exemptions 
3. The incorporation of guidelines for barrier-free access into the Uniform Building By Laws (1991) 
4. The formation of a Department of Special Education (1995) and the expansion of special schools and integrated classes for the visually impaired, the hearing impaired, children with learning disabilities and for autistic children. 
5. The establishment of an Industrial Training and Rehabilitation Centre for people with orthopaedically disabilities in Bangi (1998) 
6. The development of Community-Based Rehabilitation programs (1984) 
7. The setting up of the Advisory Panel on the Disabled (1990) and a revamped National Advisory and Consultative Council on the Disabled (1998) to formulate recommendations for facilities, services and programmes to meet the needs of people with disabilities. 

However, we express our deep concern that these initiatives and mandates have yet to create a significant impact on improving the lives of people with disabilities in Malaysia. We emphasize that the continued exclusion of people with disabilities from the mainstream development process is a violation of fundamental rights. We, therefore urge the government to seriously consider the following priority areas of concern: 

1. Improvement in the overall quality of life for people with disabilities by alleviating them from deprivation, hardship and poverty. 
2. Education, training, employment, and participation at decision-making levels. 
3. Elimination of discrimination attitudes and practices, as well as information, legal and inrastructure barriers. 
4. Increase allocation of resources to ensure the equal participation of people with disabilities. 

More specially we want to address the following important issues, which were highlighted at a recent workshop. The following recommendations are submitted for the consideration of National Economic Consultative Council II for inclusion and budgetary allocation in the 8th Malaysia Plan.

 

 

 

1. Recommendations on Education

Discriminatory attitudes towards educating people with disabilities based on traditional and unfounded myths must be replaced with progressive ideas and practices supported by relevant research findings. Although there is no specific piece of legislation to ensure and protect the rights of people with disabilities with regard to education, there are provisions within the Education Act 1961 that enables the Ministry of Education to establish and maintain special schools which provides special education for people with disabilities. The establishment of a Department of Special Education to look into education for children with special needs is a welcome move but much more needs to be done to make education a basic right. Therefore we recommend the following:

1.1 The government should ensure that all children with disabilities have access to basic education. This will require an increase in the existing facilities to meet the growing demand for education.

1.2 The Ministry of Education should reconsider its present requirement that children be toilet trained as a prerequisite for enrollment in their schools. The possibility of providing assistance to children with disabilities should be looked.

1.3 The Ministry should seriously consider the appointment of attendants at pre-school and primary school level to assist with activities of daily living where necessary to ensure that disabled children will be able to attend school and benefit from the educational opportunities, which they would otherwise be deprived of because of their severe disabilities.

1.4 The Department of Special Education should employ suitable qualified people with indispensability (especially at the decision making level) so that they can provide input into the planning of the educational programs for people with disabilities with regard to curriculum development and research, the adequate supply of appropriate educational materials, availability of suitably qualified teachers and a barrier free access to school buildings.

1.5 The government should ensure an increase in the number of special classes or centres providing Early Intervention Pro grammes and Infant Stimulation Pro grammes for children with learning disabilities. It is observed that presently only NGOs have embarked upon providing such services. Similar facilities and pro grammes must also be provided for children with multiple disabilities.

1.6 The integration of children with special needs in normal schools as well as pre-school level should be encouraged and systematically introduced.

1.7 Resource Centers on disability issues should be created in schools to provide information and practical assistance to families, educators and planners.

1.8 The Ministry of Education should consider the incorporation of self-reliance pro grammes into the present curriculum and that this be given priority. This will help alleviate parents’ concern and anxiety with regard to the future of their children with disabilities after their death.

1.9 At least one school in every district should have a barrier-free environment for people with disabilities especially wheelchair users, complete with disabled friendly transportation facilities to and from the schools.

1.10 The Special Education Department of the Ministry of Education should take full responsibility for the running of the Kelas Khas Bermasalah Pembelajaran and remedial Classes. These should be accorded the same priority for services as what is being done for the visually impaired and hearing impaired. At the same time the Special Education Department should also provides support for the education of the physically disabled.

1.11 The Ministry of Education should provide appropriate teacher training to enable teachers to cope with teaching students of all kinds and all levels of disabilities that are in the education system.

1.12 The Special Education pro grammes for the people with disabilities should be developed in collaboration with special educators, educational psychologists and parents.
2. Recommendations on Vocational Training


Currently, there are a number of vocational training centers, run by the both government and NGOs, to cater to the training needs of people with disabilities. However, there is a need for more vocational training centers offering courses which teach skills which are more relevant in terms of providing employment opportunities such as IT and accountancy. For instance, the Gurney Training Center for the blind is the only one of its kind in Malaysia. To date, with the existing facilities, only 3000 blind persons have received training although was projected in 1958 that an estimated 40,000 blind persons would benefits from it. Therefore we recommend the following: 

2.1 An increase in the number of training facilities and staff to create more training opportunities for people of all kinds of disabilities including intellectual disability.

2.2 The Bangi Industrial Training and Rehabilitation Center should be developed into a full-fledged institute offering a variety of courses that could contribute effectively towards enhancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. People with disabilities should be represented in the management of the center.

2.3 Incentives should be provided to technical and computer training centers in both the government and private sectors, as well as those run by NGOs to encourage them to admits disabled students into their training pro grammes. This would foster integration and provide more training opportunities for people with disabilities. Such institutions should be subjected to incentives such as tax deductions for providing adapted equipment and modifications for barrier-free access.

2.4 Such training centers should provide facilities to cater for people with various types of disabilities.

2.5 Appropriate training should be provided to people with disabilities to enable them to become Independent Business Owners. Low interest loans should be provided to people with disabilities to encourage them to set up their own bussiness and become self-reliant.

 

 

3. Recommendations on Employment


In 1989 the government announced that 1% of jobs in the public sector will be reserved for the people with disabilities. In 1990 the private sector was encouraged to do likewise. The Ministry of Human Resources has since helped out in the placement of people with disabilities in suitable jobs. However, in spite of the incentives provided, such as double tax deduction for the employment of disabled workers in the private sector, the quota is yet to be filled. Therefore we recommend the following:

3.1 A special department handling job placement for the people with disabilities should be established in the Ministry of Human Resources. This department should consider employing suitable qualified people with disabilities so that they can provide input towards the development of job placement pro grammes. The department should have the following functions:

3.1.1 To look into the implementation of the 1% employment policy for people with disabilities in the public and private sectors. Employers not fulfilling the 1% employment quota for the disabled should be fined. Such moneys collected should be placed in a fund to be administrated by the special placement department to be used to promote employment opportunities for the people with disabilities. It is recommended that the fine or levy be equivalent to a minimum of 1% of the total prospective wages of a disabled employee.

3.1.2 To provide specialized help and support to all employers in the recruitment, training, morale building, promotion and career development of disabled workers as well as job orientation to disabled employment seekers.

3.1.3 To conduct research and disseminate statistical data and research findings regarding the employment of people with disabilities and the challenges they face.

3.2 The employment of people with disabilities should not be restricted to telephone operators and clerks but new employment opportunities should be identified and created in both the public and the private sectors, including self employment schemes.

3.3 Advertisement offering job opportunities must be worded with special care to include opportunities for disabled candidates. For instance, the sentence “people with disabilities are welcome to apply” could be added.

3.4 The government should train more sign language interpreters and offer to bear the costs of their salaries.

3.5 Employer who has employment disabled workers should provide adequate parking space and resting room for lunch breaks for the disabled worker.

3.6 The government should consider making available vending stands to the blind and other people with disabilities to do business. This is to prevent them from doing business indiscriminately in public places and will provide them with more employment opportunities. Conveniently located spaces should be provided in the shopping complexes and other strategic areas to enable people with disabilities to operate their vending stands/businesses.

3.7 A “Buddy System” or “Mentoring Programme” should be created for disabled employee with learning difficulties to assist them integrate socially and enhance learning speed.

 

4. Recommendations on Housing
The present legislation mandates that ramps be constructed for all new houses and other accommodations occupied by disabled residents to allow for barrier-free access. However, there is no mention of the developer’s responsibility to adequately modify the house for the use of disabled occupants. Presently only married couples are eligible to apply for low cost housing. Therefore we recommend the following:

4.1 The legislation should be amended to reflect the following concerns:

4.1.1 No housing developer can refuse an application for accommodation merely because of a person’s disability.

4.1.2 The developer must be responsible for modifying the accommodation suitable for the use of people with disabilities.

4.1.3 No housing agent or landlord can refuse an application for accommodation for residential or business purposes because of a person’s disabilities or set specific terms and conditions which are less favorable.

4.1.4 House owners should not prevent persons with a disability to make appropriate alterations to a rented accommodation if the person was paying for the alterations and agrees to restore the property before leaving.

4.1.5 Suitable and covered parking must be allocated to each disabled occupant near their respective accommodation.

4.1.6 Persons with disability who are unmarried should be allowed to apply for low cost housing.

4.2 Some priority listing must be given to applicants with disabilities. For instance, developers should set aside 5 lots in all housing projects for those with disabilities. In the case of flats/apartments, people with disabilities using wheelchairs should be given priority to flats/apartments on the ground floor. Other categories of people with disabilities, such as the blind and the deaf should be allowed to choose other floors besides the ground floor.

4.3 The government should award a yearly grant of RM1,000 to people with disabilities to make suitable alterations to their accommodation, install devices and maintain them.

4.4 Those who are physically disabled and need the required modifications to their accommodation should be eligible for financial assistance, of an amount appropriate to the needs, from the government.

4.5 A reduced interest rate on housing loans for the people with disabilities.

 

5. Recommendations on Accessibility and Transportation

The Uniform Building By Laws(1984) under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 was amended in 1999. It makes it mandatory for all new building to have facilities and amenities for people with disabilities. Subsequently, The Malaysia Standard (Ms 1184:91) Code of Practice for Access for the Disabled People to Public Building was drawn up to stipulate the essential provisions that need to be incorporated into such buildings. However, due to lack of monitoring the enforcement of the Act and Code of Practice, many buildings are still inaccessible to people with disabilities. Therefore we recommend the following;

5.1 The government should consider measures to monitor the enforcement of the laws regarding barrier-free access of the disabled to public buildings.

5.2 All public places should have appropriate toilet facilities and adequate parking spaces. Roads, pavements, pathways and walkways, pedestrian crossing (with traffic lights and bleeps) must made more accessible for people with disabilities.

5.3 More parking lots in the shopping complexes should be allocated to the disabled car drivers and motorbike users.

5.4 Public transport should be made user-friendly. Fo9e example, wheelchair users have difficult coping with fast closing doors of the commuter trains. The public buses should revert to the old system where all seats face one way so that the seats railings are easily accessible to guide blind passengers. The railings on the roof should be easily reached by disabled standing passengers and the seats themselves should be lower in height for better balance especially during emergency brakes . Although there are seats reserved for people with disabilities, this policy must be enforced and special services for people with disabilities must be made available.

5.5 The local authorities should consider the users bigger taxis to accommodate both wheelchair and passenger. A coupon system with a 50% discount for people with disabilities using taxi service should be introduced until the public transport is more accessible to the people with disabilities.

5.6 The introduction of a special service at airports to ensure the safety of wheelchair and luggage for disabled passengers.

5.7 The government should encourage people with disabilities to buy their own cars by removing the excise duty imposed on cars ( at least those of locally produced cars).

 

6. Recommendations on Health and Medical Care

6.1 The government should provide health and medical care to all people with disabilities regardless of the type and severity of the disability. The people with disabilities should have access to appropriate specialist treatment.

6.2 The government should train and provide adequate psycho gists, psychiatrist and therapists (physical, occupational and speech therapists) to meet the needs of the people with disabilities.

6.3 The therapist should be given due recognition and incentive that commensurate with their qualifications and scope of work.

6.4 Medical and para-medical professionals should be given training on specific basic requirements of the different types of disabilities. Paediatricians in particular need to be more knowledgeable in intellectual disability so that they can give accurate information to parents.

6.5 More emphasis should be given to training the basic-degree doctors to have the necessary knowledge that can enable them to channel people with disabilities to appropriate medical specialists and pare-medical professionals.

 

7. Recommendations on Social Provision
There is at present only minimal financial assistance from the government for people with disabilities and their families. With an increasing cost of living today, steps should be taken to provide a corresponding increase in the financial assistance package to people with disabilities and their families. Therefore we recommend the following;

7.1 The government should seriously consider introducing a disability and unemployment allowance of RM300 per month to enable the disable 
to be economically independent. This would benefit those who cannot find employment or who are unemployable and their families, including disabled elderly persons who are especially disadvantaged. For the disabled elderly, this scheme would in fact be cheaper than the expense for residential care in homes or hostels. The could continue to live independently and lead productive lives.

7.2 The government should make available a Personal Assistance Grant for people with disabilities who need the assistance of an attendant or a maid to enable them to perform activities of daily living. For instance, wheelchair users need helpers, the deaf need sign language interpreters, people with learning difficulties need special attendant while the blind need readers for printed documents.

7.3 The income tax relief of RM5,000 for people with disabilities should deducted from the tax payable and not on the gross income.

 

8. Recommendations on Public Awareness


We recommend that a National Resource Center be established, equipped with modern technology, and standard mechanisms for the collection and dissemination of information on disability issues, demographic data pertaining to disability, availability of services for people with disabilities, their socio-economic status, employment, educational needs and accomplishments, housing designs and home ownership etc. Therefore we recommend the following;

8.1 More financial support should be given to projects, which aims at making information relating to health, education, employment, transportation, recreation, legal rights etc. available to people with disabilities.

8.2 The National Census should be used to obtain relevant information about people with disabilities in the country for the purpose of planning and provision of services and facilities for them.

8.3 The process for the registration of disabled children should be made easier. For instance the health and social welfare facilities should be available at a one-stop registration center for people with disabilities.

 

9. Recommendations on Information Technology


With the advent of the Internet and Information technology, a vast array of possibilities are now open for people with disabilities. These range from education opportunities to employment and business ventures. People with disabilities should take the opportunity to be trained in information Technology to enhance their quality of life. It is learn that various institutions of higher learning are willing to offer Information Technology courses for people with disabilities. Therefore we recommend the following;

9.1 While more emphasis be placed on IT training and development for the disabled, existing traditional skills need not be phased out. One must be encouraged to widen their skills.

9.2 The government should make available special educational grants, scholarships and financial incentives to enable people with disabilities to pursue IT related courses.

 

10. Recommendations on Non Government Organizations(NGOs)
NGOs have played a significant role in the development of social services in Malaysia. NGOs are also the major providers of services to the people with disabilities and their families. The grants they obtain from the government are minimal and therefore, have to rely more on the public for funding most of their pro grammes and services. Furthermore, there is too much competition for the limited funds available from general public, therefore we recommend the following;

10.1 An increase in the allocation of grants for NGOs because a continued reliance on the public for funds simply reinforces the charity approach to services to the disabled.

10.2 Self-help groups should be recognized for their legitimate service and therefore, grants should be allocated for them to continue their work.

10.3 NGOs employing disabled workers should be reimbursed in the form of grants from the government. This would encourage more NGOs to employ people with disabilities and thereby helping to create more employment opportunities.

 

11. Recommendations on Community-based Rehabilitation


According to the Department of Social Welfare, the government is committed to improving the CBR programs and to increasing the number of centers to cover the entire country. It is anticipated that by 2002, Malaysia is expected to have about 267 CBR centers providing services to about 5000 children nation-wide. Therefore we recommend the following;

11.1 The present services provided by CBR centers should be revamped in order to be more effective. Owing to the fact that many of the clients at the CBR centers would require education and vocational training, a government sponsored study on the Impact and Quality is urgently needed to determine the areas for improvement and to establish a relationship between CBR, education and vocational raining. This will facilitate future planning and development of the CBR centers.

 

12. Recommendations on Legislation


People with disabilities are a large minority group and have been subjected to direct and indirect discrimination for centuries in most countries, including Malaysia. The human rights movement is visibly shifting the attention of policy makers from the mere provision of charitable services to actively protecting their basic right to dignity and self-respect. It is anticipated that a ‘People with Disabilities Act’ will provide for the legal endorsement to the right of access for people with disabilities to education and vocational training; employment; travel on public transport; barrier-free environment and integrated living; information and communication technology; independence and dignity. Therefore we recommend the following;

12.1 The People with Disabilities Act should be enacted and introduced regarding the position of the people with disabilities in Malaysia should be translated in all the major languages and disseminated so that its various provisions, benefits etc become widely known.

12.2 Arrangements should be made, either through statutory or voluntary agencies, for providing support and interpretation services in legal and other representation to court, police and other agencies for and on behalf of disabled petitioners, especially the intellectually disabled, the profoundly deaf and the illiterate.

 

 

CONCLUSION

The above recommendations are, of necessity, only a selection and reflect the extent of support systems that people with disabilities currently require. The demand from people with disabilities to become equal members of society has been voiced consistently over the past two decades. Therefore, when this issues are given serious attention that it deserves people with disabilities and their families tend to benefit in several ways:

They will be able to develop a higher level of self-reliance as well as economic and social independence. The families of people with disabilities will have access to some financial relief while more opportunities will be created for people with disabilities in education, training and employment. Someday soon it is anticipated that people with disabilities will be able to finally enjoy “full participation and equality” in society through economic and social integration

This Memorandum was submitted to National Economic Consultative Council in August 2000