Dr Amar Singh HSS
About 15% of Malaysians have a disability. Another 20-30% are care partners, volunteers and professionals who are involved in their lives.
Hence, collectively, we comprise 30% to 40% of the Malaysian electorate. Although from diverse backgrounds, we are united on the rights and needs of persons with disabilities (OKU).
It would be prudent for politicians and political parties, especially those hoping to be elected as MPs or assemblymen, to heed the views of voters who are associated with disability and the OKU community. The vast majority of the disabled community are registered voters who make the effort to vote, despite the challenges they face.
The OKU community and care partners (parents, families, volunteers) have been neglected, overlooked and marginalised for far too long. We will not accept this any longer.
The major concerns that involve the daily struggles of adults and children with disabilities include:
- Improve employment inclusion – better and wider job opportunities;
- Improve education inclusion – inclusion in mainstream classes with reasonable accommodation;
- Implement Universal Building By-Laws UBBL34A 1984 – make public facilities accessible not just for OKU, but also for older adults facing mobility issues as part of ageing;
- Enforce the rights of persons with disabilities.
Over decades, there has been only marginal improvement on these issues. No game-changer resource investment and efforts have been made.
So, our message to all candidates in the upcoming general election (GE15) is this:
Are you hoping to be elected? Do you want our votes?
If you want our votes, what will you do to strengthen our rights and make inclusive education and employment a reality?
Will you support the urgent amendment of the Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Act 2008, to give it the scope and powers to enforce the rights of persons with disabilities?
We shall vote for the parties and candidates with a disability-inclusive political manifesto and that shows an understanding of implementing disability-inclusive action plans.
We shall vote for the election manifesto that specifies the following:
- A plan to revise the PwD Act 2008, within two years of taking office, to give it the scope and powers to enforce the rights of persons with disabilities.
- A commitment to significantly improve real inclusion and accessibility for persons with disabilities in the Malaysian education, vocational training and employment sectors.
- A commitment to implement universal design principles to ensure persons with disabilities and care partners can move around freely in the community.
- A pledge to engage with persons with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities and care partners to understand our concerns.
All of you who need our votes to get elected – please listen to our lived experiences. Value our voices.
We appeal to all political parties to find GE15 candidates with experience of effectively tackling OKU issues. Consider fielding experienced persons with disabilities as political candidates.
If you earn points on this scorecard, you stand a chance to be considered by us as a voting bloc.
We strongly encourage you to have Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (BIM) sign language interpreting services as a standard part of your ceramah and audio-visual social media posts.
Make all your information materials for the public screen reader-accessible; this includes all websites and online services.
We thank the Election Commission (EC) for their efforts so far to enable OKU participation in the election process. We ask that you now remove all remaining barriers to voting.
So to the EC, we ask the following:
- Please improve the accessibility of checking voting registration and the voting process for all persons with diverse disabilities.
- Information for making informed choices must be in formats that can be accessed. For example, deaf voters need sign language interpreting, Blind voters need screen reader accessibility, and many voters need information in Easy Read format.
- All online processes and services must be totally screen reader accessible and in accordance with the latest international standards. For example, ensure that the captcha form on “myspr semak” is screen reader-accessible.
- Please improve the accessibility of voting venues for voters with disabilities and older persons. Accessibility improvements for persons with diverse disabilities benefit everyone.
It is time for those in power to bring the nation into the 21st century where disability is concerned. We need to move away from the prevalent charity and welfare model and move towards the rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities in society.
We hope that GE15 will be a turning point in our nation’s history.
As a nation, let us move together on inclusion as a universal human right.
Join us in respecting and valuing the dignity and worth of every person.
Show us how you will include persons with diverse disabilities, older persons, families, care partners, volunteers and others involved in the lives of persons with disabilities.
We urge you to support #OKURightsMatter.
More details on the views of the OKU community can be found in this report.
Dr Amar Singh HSS is a consultant paediatrician and FMT reader.
More than 40 disability organisations and disability activists, including Senator Ras Adiba Radzi, are signatories to this letter.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.