Thursday August 30, 2012
Merdeka wish list
By ANTHONY THANASAYAN
AS Malaysians prepare to celebrate the nation’s 55th birthday tomorrow, I thought it would be a good idea to come up with a random Merdeka wish list for this week’s column.
Though many of the issues raised here depend on the Government’s intervention, there are many things that you and I can do to raise the quality of life for the disabled in our midst.
Support for the elderly with disabilities
With improvements in healthcare, more Malaysians are now living well into their seventies. This includes people with disabilities (PWDs). However, PWDs feel the effects of ageing more than their non-disabled counterparts.
In overseas countries, governments provide caregivers round the clock for those who are profoundly handicapped, for example, those paralysed from the chest or neck down. The situation is especially critical for the disabled whose family members have passed away. If they are well cared for, the disabled can still lead independent and active lives in society.
This Merdeka, I wish our politicians and law-makers will think along these lines, too, as disability will affect us one day. They must come up with strong and workable policies for older Malaysians who need care. This is especially important, considering that our country is expected to reach an ageing nation status by 2035 with the number of people above the age of 60 making up 15% of the population.
And whilst they are at it, the authorities should seriously look into making foreign workers more affordable and available to the disabled, especially the poor, instead of only the rich and business community. For a start, extra costs and other expenses involving the handicapped, should be borne by the Government. Though such a programme can start in centres for the disabled, gradually it should trickle down to the individual level. We need to move away from institutionalising people and go into normal home living instead. Foreign workers who are employed to help the disabled and elderly should also be given special training to equip them for the job.
With such back-up, Malaysians need not worry about being disabled or growing old one day because we will have a nation that supports us in every way.
Telephone and Internet service providers
Please try and outdo yourselves to come up with the best and most affordable plan for subscribers with disabilities. Your goal should be to ensure that every disabled person in the country will be able to use the Internet/phone to enjoy a higher quality of life. The mobile phone can be a blessing to PWDs in an emergency, while the Internet can provide them with invaluable information on just about anything.
Local councils and accessibility
It is the job of every local council in the country to get into the act of providing disabled-friendly access in towns and cities. I wish that all local councils will set up a committee of disabled persons, together with their respective technical experts, to get this going. The disabled themselves are needed to check each facility personally for its user-friendly designs and advise on what needs to be changed and what doesn’t. When these facilities – such as car parks and toilets – are in place, please do not allow them to be abused.
Acts of kindness
> Pay the dinner bill for a blind customer in a shop.
> Offer to do the marketing for an elderly disabled person living alone.
> Wash his car or help him clean his home or room periodically.
> Take a disabled person to a movie.
> Read to the blind.
> Help service a wheelchair for a physically handicapped person.
> Walk his dog or help clean his aquarium.
> Wheel an elderly person to the park.
> Transport a disabled person to the clinic or hospital for his/her check-up and offer to collect their medicine once a month from the hospital.
> Complain to the management when you find a facility for the handicapped which has been neglected. Encourage restaurants to provide wheelchair-friendly ramps and toilets.