Thursday March 7, 2013
Celebrating love and friendship
By ANTHONY THANASAYAN
The disabled were very much part of the recently concluded Chap Goh Mei festivities.
CHAP Goh Mei, regarded by many as the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day, was celebrated with much fanfare recently. People with disabilities were not left out of the celebrations.
Wheelchair user Teo Kah Choon, 44, enjoyed the day with his family and friends. He had lunch with his siblings and parents, at a wheelchair-accessible restaurant in Petaling Jaya.
Teo, who works as a data entry specialist from his home, joined a group of disabled friends for a sumptuous vegetarian dinner at a Chinese temple in Kuala Lumpur.
“It was simply marvellous to be out with my friends. We sang our favourite Chinese songs from yesteryear together with the able-bodied, and collected our angpows after that,” says Teo.
“In the past, Chap Goh Mei used to be celebrated on a smaller scale among employers and their staff. Now I’m happy that more people from religious, business and political groups are coming forth to celebrate the event on a bigger scale, and the disabled are being included, too,” says Teo, a Petaling Jaya resident.
Teo contracted poliomyelitis when he was three years old. He was rushed to the hospital with persistent high fever and given a jab. But his legs only got weaker after that episode. Teo made a special trip to China years later to seek traditional treatment, but it did not help his condition.
Teo decided that the next best thing was to accept his fate and started using a wheelchair in 1985. Today, Teo leads a very active life as a disabled activist and is vice-president of the Independent Living and Training Centre in Rawang, Selangor.
He travels virtually everywhere on his hand-powered three-wheel motorcycle.
“I can avoid traffic jams because of the motorcycle lanes. The petrol and maintenance is manageable and there’s no need to pay toll. I only pay RM1 for the yearly road tax,” says Teo.
He pointed out that taxis are not only expensive, they won’t stop for wheelchairs because it’s too much work – the cabbies are reluctant to get out of their cabs to help put the wheelchair in the boot.
Teo says the best part about using a three-wheeler is that he gets to park virtually anywhere – as long as it does not pose an obstruction to others. Most enforcement officers are very understanding and chose to close one eye when they come across vehicles used by the disabled.
Teo’s main concern is potential robbers on the road. He makes it a point to avoid unfamiliar areas and uses familiar routes which are well-lit and well-used.
“There are certainly angels in our midst,” says Teo. On a couple of occasions when Teo’s bike broke down, strangers rushed to his aid.
One of these samaritans even went to the extent of removing Teo’s punctured tyre, took it to the nearest service centre and returned with a good tyre – an exercise that took nearly an hour!
On another note, people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers are in for a special treat this Saturday.
The Kuala Lumpur-based Malaysian Parkinson’s Disease Association (MPDA) will be holding its second public forum on Parkinson’s at Kompleks Masyarakat Penyayang in Penang, from 1.30pm–5pm. The event is free and open to the public.
A specialist on the disease and other medical experts will be present. They will highlight the latest developments in Parkinson’s disease and touch on Deep Brain Surgery treatment for patients.
MPDA was set up in 1994 as the first national support group for people with Parkinson’s, their families and caregivers, by the late Lloyd Tan Pao Chan, a Parkinson’s patient himself.
The association aims to provide support and improve the quality of life of people with Parkinson’s and their families.
MPDA President Sara Lew says one of the objectives of the forum is to start a local support group in Penang Island.
Interested parties can contact MPDA at 03-7980 6685 or Mr Looi at 017-8871859 (Tuesdays to Saturdays). For more details, visit www.mpda.org.my.