32,985 persons with disabilities registered in Sabah
KOTA KINABALU: Persons with disabilities (OKU) should be registered so better services and amenities could be provided on top of OKU-friendly programmes.
Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Datuk Stephen Wong urged parents to register OKU family members so that the government as well as nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and bodies could provide better and more relevant experiences.
According to Sabah Social Welfare Department (JPKA) records as of October 2018, there are 32,985 registered OKU throughout Sabah.
“When divided into seven OKU categories, they comprise 2,556 with hearing disability, 2,902 with vision impairment, 290 with speech impediment, 9,099 with physical disability, 13,420 with learning disability, 2,541 with mental disability and 1,909 others.
“Registration of OKU is important so that the government is able to identify the number of disabled persons according to category.
“This would help us better organise rehabilitation programmes, training and education that is best suited to each disability, as well as to provide relevant services and amenities,” he said, at the Statelevel Inclusive Carnival for All. His speech was delivered by Luyang assemblyman Ginger Phoong.
UNICEF Malaysia deputy representative Radoslaw Rzehak added that as of June 2017, the Department of Persons with Disabilities recorded 431,000 people with disabilities.
“This is just 1.3 per cent of the Malaysian population. According to the World Health Organisation, this percentage should be closer to 15 per cent, in line with the rate of disability found in the global population.
“This suggests that registration rates in Malaysia are very low, partly attributed to the fear of stigma and discrimination which comes with labelling a child as having a disability.
“But we have now entered the era of a New Malaysia which needs to also be an Inclusive Malaysia.
“Let’s stop labelling children with disabilities as ‘special’ and segregating them from society. Let’s start including them in everything we do. We need to make reasonable accommodations so they can participate fully.
“In an inclusive Sabah, children with disabilities should not be seen as different or ‘special.’ They should be included in mainstream schools, have access to social services and healthcare. They should participate equally in social, entertainment and sporting events,” he said.
Rzehak further said the toughest barriers in achieving an inclusive environment are people’s minds and hearts, as 43 per cent of people still think it is disruptive for their children to be in the same school as children with disabilities.
However, with these obstacles removed, children with disabilities have every opportunity to grow up healthy, free from harm and educated so they can reach their full potential.
“It is not only the correct thing to do – it is their fundamental right. That way, they can be fully functioning members of society. They can contribute, and be a benefit to themselves, their families, their community, and their country,” he said.
The carnival, organised by JPKA in collaboration with the Sabah Council of Social Services (MPMS), Sabah Art Gallery, UNICEF and local civil society organisations, aims to showcase ability, raise awareness on building a more inclusive society and empower children with disabilities and their parents by developing self-confidence and pride.
The Inclusive Carnival for All in Kota Kinabalu is the first of a series of inclusive events to be replicated throughout the state. Next targeted locations are Kota Marudu, Sandakan and Keningau in 2019.
Phoong (left) presenting a certificate of appreciation to a participant of the Inclusive Carnival for All.