Vol­un­teers at United Voice are not only teach­ing adults with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties self-re­liance, but recog­nis­ing them as unique in­di­vid­u­als.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PEOPLE - By ANGELIN YEOH star2@thes­tar.com.my

THE aroma of bak­ing cook­ies wafted out the mo­ment the door to the United Voice ac­tiv­ity room opens. “Our mem­bers have just fin­ished bak­ing cook­ies for the day,” said United Voice lead co­or­di­na­tor Yeong Moh Foong as she greeted me at their of­fice in Pe­tal­ing Jaya, Se­lan­gor. I sam­pled their best­selling cook­ies and they were de­li­cious. A vol­un­teer smiled glee­fully at my en­joy­ment of the cook­ies, and of­fered me more. The cook­ies are just some of many items made and sold by mem­bers of United Voice, apart from hand­made items like paint­ings and greet­ing cards.

United Voice is a self-ad­vo­cacy so­ci­ety for peo­ple with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties (PWLD). Es­tab­lished in 1997, Yeong said the so­ci­ety aims to help PWLDs de­velop in­de­pen­dent liv­ing skills and ac­quire knowl­edge about their rights. Cur­rently, the so­ci­ety has 190 mem­bers un­der its wing, from young adults in their 20s to early 30s.

“We also have mem­bers who are about 50 years old,” said Yeong.

Ac­cord­ing to Yeong, United Voice care for mem­bers with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties like Down Syn­drome, Autism, At­ten­tion Deficit Hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der (ADHD) and cere­bral palsy.

Bub­bly Yeong started out as a vol­un­teer eight years ago and now she’s a full-time staff mem­ber. The chal­lenge for her th­ese days is seek­ing em­ploy­ment for United Voice mem­bers.

“We started this Em­ploy­ment Project to help some of our mem­bers get jobs so they can start earn­ing money. We care­fully search for jobs they could do and in­form their par­ents about them.”

Yeong said mem­bers are em­ployed in var­i­ous in­dus­tries like hos­pi­tal­ity, tech­nol­ogy and re­tail. She also be­lieves that be­ing em­ployed gives them an im­por­tant sense of be­long­ing.

“I al­ways tell them, you have the right to be some­one who can con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety. Some­times when I take some­one out for meals, I get ques­tions like ‘Can I eat a burger for din­ner?’ and I

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