KUCHING: Listen to the voices and aspirations of the disabled community and learn from experienced practitioners and researchers to promote an inclusive society.
This call came from Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development Datuk Fatimah Abdullah, who asserted that concerted efforts and a shift in attitudes in particular were required to address disability.
“Facilitating and equal participation of people with disabilities and achieving an inclusive society is not just the job of the Welfare Department. There should be inter-ministry and inter-agency actions and together we can achieve more.
“Welfare is the responsibility of all, not only belongs to a certain ministry,” she said when opening an international conference ‘Disability Studies: Heading in the Right(s) Direction?’ organised by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s (Unimas) Centre of Excellence for Disability Studies and Faculty of Social Sciences at a leading hotel here yesterday.
Fatimah said people might experience disabilities through accidents or normal process of ageing and therefore it was essential for everyone to help ensure that disabled members of the community be given the opportunity to participate in all facets of life.
She added the disabled community must not be further disabled by the environment they lived in.
She also admitted Sarawak lacked the necessary facilities to accommodate the needs of disabled persons.
“I must say we are still very far behind in terms of accessibility for the disabled compared to countries like Japan. I am often told of stories about people with disabilities who cannot find employment even though they are fully qualified.
“When they do find employment, they find hurdles at the workplace, and their special needs are not met. Are our public amenities and transport accessible to people with disabilities? Are our means and format of communication accessible to people who are visually impaired?”
On a related matter, Fatimah disclosed that a group of people would pay a courtesy call on her next week to talk about the feasibility of Sarawak hosting the Malaysian Paralympic Games in 2016.
She pointed out 2016 would be an election year for the state while the lack of facilities would hinder movement of the paralympics.
“I thought wow, is it possible? I also thought about how we are going to transport the paralympic athletes from one place to another. How about other facilities? Communication and language?”
Meanwhile, Sarawak will host Sukan Malaysia (Sukma) 2016. Sukma is an event held once every two years and Perlis was the host this year.
Among those present were Unimas vice chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Kadim Suaidi and organising chairperson cum director of Unimas’ Centre of Excellence for Disability Studies Association Prof Dr Ling How Kee.