‘Different’, not ‘less’
W Emight have missed a “golden” Merdeka but the feat of our paralympians more than made up for it during the Hari Malaysia celebrations last week. Our athletes brought back for the very first time, gold medals, not one but three.
I have always thought that the abbreviation OKU for orang kurang upaya is a misnomer, if not arrogant. It is supposed to highlight some form of “disability” in comparison with the so-called “normal” person.
In other words, it is the latter who coined the abbreviation OKU based on the assumptions that they are the “best” benchmarks. If that is so, I have my doubts and would argue that being “normal” too is by no means perfect. They also suffer from “kurang” this and that and therefore the benchmark is rather arbitrary to say the least. To illustrate, as an example, we have come across people who can paint very good art pieces by just using their mouth or feet for that matter. How is that “kurang upaya” or “disabled” compared with those who can paint using their hands?
Similarly in the sports arena. I was watching the women’s basketball finals between the US and Germany, and was mesmerised by how deftly the players operated their wheelchairs while trying to score for their team.
And not unlike the professional “normal” players who are lucky enough not to have to depend on any form of mechanical aid in their game. That said winning medals at the Paralympics, therefore, isn’t any easier relative to the Olympics as such. More so if it is a gold medal achievement, not to mention creating new records as the world’s best.
This was exactly Malaysia’s case at the Paralympics in Rio where we bagged an unprecedented three gold medals for the first time in the nation’s sporting history.
Mohd Ridzuan Mohd Puzi won the nation’s first ever gold medal in the men’s T36 100m dash. His time of 12.07s broke the Paralympic record of 12.25s held by Ukraine’s Roman Pavlyk since the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. Meanwhile, Ziyad Zolkefli did his bit by winning the men’s F20 shot putt with a new world record. Ziyad hurled a distance of 16.84m to break the world record of 16.59m held by Australian Todd Hodgetts since 2007. He also improved on the bronze that he won at the previous Paralympics in London four years ago. Malaysia’s third gold medal was captured by Abdul Latif Romly who miraculously broke the world record three times in the long jump T20 category. He broke the world record for the third time when he soared 7.60m in his fifth jump to take the gold medal. He improved the former mark of 7.35m, which he achieved at the World Championships in Doha last year as well as the Paralympic record of 7.25m set by Jose Antonio Exposito Pineiro of Spain in 2012. That all these took place around the Hari Raya Qurban festivities made it even more meaningful as an act of sacrifice for Malaysia in the eyes of the world. More so, it demolishes, once and for all, the uncalled for “ultra-kiasu” allegations suggesting that those involved in individual events are motivated by money rather than patriotism through sports.
Because of all this, and to sincerely recognise and truly acknowledge the invaluable selfless contributions, we must go beyond normal material rewards, additional prices and the heroic calls by many. In fact, there is no better way than to further uplift them all by giving the abbreviation OKU a more dignified meaning as “orang kelainan upaya” instead. Or “differently abled persons” as this is what they really are.
In this regard the so-called “normal” persons are no different. They have no monopoly over others by presenting themselves as the benchmark for those who are differently abled.
Just because the “normal” are the majority does not mean that in the land of the blind the one-eyed is king. They should be more humble than coercing others to recognise them as role models.
Despite claiming to be “normal” they have to accept their own weaknesses and flaws as well. Otherwise how do we explain what is taking place today? The sad state of affairs in our society and its well-being, which seem to point to some severe “kurang upaya” happening somewhere. Thus if we keep on insisting we are the benchmark despite the glaring shambles – it only goes to prove that we are indeed “kurang upaya” for being to blind too.
Lest we forget Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking are two giants of our times who are themselves “differently abled” and are never stigmatised as OKU. In similar ways our paralympians have proven that they too are differently abled and not “kurang” as such.
It is time therefore to discard the old label in preference to one that further enhances their dignity as part of humanity just like everyone else. They more than deserve this.
Our heroes ... Flashback of theSun’s column, Off the Cuff, published on Sept 16.