Number of special people registered with dept still low – Azizah


KOTA KINABALU:  The number of persons with disabilities registered with the State Welfare Services Department is still extremely low.

Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Hajah Azizah Mohd Dun said the World Health Organisation’s estimated that at least 10 per cent of a country’s population are PWDs.

In Sabah, she added, as of July this year, only 15,409 PWDs were recorded with the department – including mentally and physically challenged, hearing and vision impairment, cerebral palsy, as well as intellectually challenged.

“This is only 0.6 per cent. It is extremely low as compared to WHO’s estimation,” she said during the 10th Biennial General Meeting cum Regional Conference of East Asia and Pacific Council of Cheshire Homes, here, yesterday.

Azizah stressed it was imperative for the state government to know the number of PWDs living in Sabah so that the statistics would facilitate the government to map out appropriate policies and strategies to assist them.

“The services provided for them may not be adequate and the scope may not be wide enough to cover everybody, but I assure you that the government is and will always take due emphasis on the provision of social welfare services to persons with disabilities,” she said.

She noted that many parents or caregivers failed to register their children or PWDs with the department although they are required to do so under the Disabilities Act 2008.

Renewing calls for parents and caregivers to do so, she said it was important as the PWDs deserve help and that they share the same rights as the able-bodied people.

“This means the society must adapt to their needs and accord them the same right,” said Azizah in her speech, which was read by her assistant minister Datuk Herbert Timbun Lagadan.

She said every PWD registered with the department will be provided with the OKU (Orang Kurang Upaya) Card that serves like a national identity card which entitles them to enjoy many facilities that are made available to them by the various government departments.

“The Welfare Services Department provides institutional care for PWDs and skill training at its Rehabilitation and Training Complex at Kimanis, Early Intervention Education, Community Based Rehabilitation, Disability Work Allowance of RM300 monthly for PWDs working full time and earn less than RM1,200 per-month and many other financial assistance scheme.

“In addition, the Education Ministry also provides RM50 per-month for primary and secondary school children with disabilities and 50 per cent discount on fees, RM300 per-month for PWD students in institutions of higher learning and exemption of registration fees for deaf trainees of Skill Training Centres,” she said.

Similarly, she added, other government departments such as the Human Resource Ministry, the Transport Authorities, Inland Revenue Board and Telekom do provide facility packages for PWDs.

On the event, she congratulated Sabah Cheshire Home, being a non-governmental organisation with special focus on PWDs, for taking up the challenge.

“This paradigm shift will no doubt provide more coverage and comprehensive services for persons with disabilities in extending beyond its traditional role of residential care.

“These include other approaches of disability work including advocacy and campaign on accessibility to build environment, public transportation, information and communication, health in its prevention, early detection and intervention and rehabilitation programmes,” she said.

Azizah said the theme Changing Attitudes – Include Everybody in Development was aptly chosen especially at a time of shifting the paradigm in disability work from charity to the right-based, and from social exclusion to inclusive development.

She said it was important that the issues of disability including basic human rights, equal opportunity, access, employment, discrimination and prejudices are given focus through the conference and advocate for the PWDs’ inclusion in all development.