Talk­ing point

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - AN­THONY THANASAYAN star2@thes­

The dis­abled could do with more aid from Bud­get 2012.

THE re­cent Bud­get 2012 con­tin­ues to be a hot topic among many peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in the coun­try.

Last week, Yam Tong Woo, who be­came blind three years ago, was ea­gerly watch­ing the telly for good­ies in the bud­get. Yam, 57, was dis­heart­ened to note that there was just a brief men­tion of a monthly al­lowance of be­tween RM150 and RM300 which the So­cial Wel­fare Depart­ment would be dish­ing out.

“It must be pointed out that not all peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties are el­i­gi­ble for this al­lowance,” said Yam. “I was look­ing for­ward to see­ing other forms of as­sis­tance for the dis­abled to help them cope with the ris­ing cost of liv­ing.”

Yam said the blind and other peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties should be en­ti­tled to free rides on buses, trains and the LRT in view of their lim­ited earn­ing ca­pac­ity. “This would be a mag­nan­i­mous way for the Govern­ment to let the hand­i­capped com­mu­nity know that they un­der­stand that the lat­ter had in­ad­ver­tently been left be­hind by the lack of user­friendly fa­cil­i­ties.”

The dis­abled have to pay a hugh chunk for as­sis­tive de­vices such as wheel­chairs and white canes, and soft­ware pro­grammes such as Braille read­ers.

“If the au­thor­i­ties are not able to give a monthly al­lowance to the dis­abled, at least a spe­cial hand­out should be given to them from time to time,” said Yam.

He pointed out that as­sis­tive tech­nol­ogy such as screen reader soft­wares and adap­tive de­vices do not come cheap and are of­ten out of reach for the blind.

“Mo­bil­ity aids such as the white cane which the blind use to find their way around should be pro­vided free to ev­ery blind in­di­vid­ual,” Yam added.

On an­other note, I would like thank Daphne Ling of Vancouver, Canada, who wrote in to high­light the fact that not all dis­abil­i­ties are vis­i­ble to the naked eye.

In When Na­ture Calls ... ( Star2 on Sun­day, Oct 16), Daphne re­ferred to my ar­ti­cle, Har­row­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence ( Wheel Power, Sept 8). Daphne was con­cerned that the able-bod­ied per­son that I con­fronted in a dis­abled-friendly wash­room, might have had an in­vis­i­ble dis­abil­ity such as Ju­ve­nile Id­io­pathic Arthri­tis or pul­monary fi­bro­sis, to name a few.

Your point is well taken, Daphne. How­ever, the in­di­vid­ual that I was re­fer­ring to was clearly an able-bod­ied per­son (judg­ing from his foot­prints on the toi­let seat), while an­other one that I en­coun­tered was a staff of the hyper­mar­ket. These were all con­firmed later.

How­ever, I have to dis­agree with you when you sug­gested that “some­times it could just be a blad­der/gas­tro/bowel emer­gency, and that was the only cu­bi­cle avail­able.”

Your com­ment re­minded me of an in­ci­dent when I had just fin­ished us­ing the loo in San Fran­cisco years ago. A mid­dleaged man rushed in, and was badly in need of the toi­let. He was lit­er­ally hold­ing his stom­ach and jump­ing on his feet.

When I sug­gested that he use the dis­abled-friendly toi­let which was empty, I got a tick­ing off from him. “What? Use the toi­let? What if a per­son in a wheel­chair comes in right now and is in the same po­si­tion?”

He held on for a few min­utes be­fore rush­ing into the next reg­u­lar toi­let that was avail­able. I learnt a valu­able les­son from this.

Lame ex­cuses should not be used as a li­cence to abuse all sorts of fa­cil­i­ties for the dis­abled.

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