Our he­roes de­serve more

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP - BY MICHELLE CHUN

IT’S over. In the great­est feat so far, Malaysian para-ath­letes clinched three gold medals and one bronze at the Rio Par­a­lympics.

The con­tin­gent has done our na­tion proud, and I was so happy to read that the Na­tional Sports Coun­cil has recog­nised their ef­forts with a gen­er­ous re­ward.

But as Malaysians, we can do more for them than share Face­book posts and write lengthy salutes for ev­ery­one else to read.

Peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in Malaysia still face many chal­lenges in their ev­ery­day lives. Nav­i­gat­ing an en­vi­ron­ment that does not seem to al­ways take your abil­i­ties into con­sid­er­a­tion can be daunt­ing, and of­ten times cruel.

In re­cent years, Malaysia has im­proved its stan­dards to cre­ate safer and more dis­abled-friendly spa­ces and ser­vices. How­ever, we can­not progress if we choose to re­main un­aware or re­spect­ful of our di­verse abil­i­ties, each of which makes us unique.

We need to start be­ing more re­spect­ful, as in­di­vid­u­als and as a com­mu­nity.

Chil­dren and adults alike, whether liv­ing with a phys­i­cal or men­tal dis­abil­ity, have dis­cov­ered how to make full use of their abil­i­ties ev­ery day.

They are in­spir­ing in­di­vid­u­als with a dif­fer­ent set of chal­lenges, and just as we hope to be re­spected by all, we must show re­spect to all. There are prac­ti­cal ways to do so. If you aren’t dis­abled, stop park­ing in ac­ces­si­ble spa­ces. I re­cently ob­served a gen­tle­man swing­ing his car into an ac­ces­si­ble park­ing space at a mall, jaun­tily step­ping out and strid­ing to­wards the au­to­matic glass doors, phone to ear and chat­ting away.

I un­der­stand that many of the park­ing spa­ces had been taken up and he might have been rush­ing for an ap­point­ment, but mak­ing the choice to take an ac­ces­si­ble park­ing space at your own con­ve­nience com­pletely de­feats the pur­pose of ac­ces­si­ble spa­ces.

Teach your chil­dren that di­ver­sity is pre­cious, that be­ing dif­fer­ent is all right.

I’ve seen and heard of par­ents who dis­cour­age their chil­dren from in­ter­act­ing with peers who have in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties.

What stems forth from such at­ti­tudes is a cul­ture of sham­ing and shun­ning, and it can de­stroy the very unity we seek. But I’m en­cour­aged. There is al­ways good in the world, and in Malaysia a grow­ing num­ber of par­ents are teach­ing their chil­dren to care and love those who may not look, talk or think in a way fa­mil­iar to them. Dif­fer­ent is not bad.

I’ve also wit­nessed Malaysian driv­ers on the road be­ing pa­tient and kind to driv­ers with the dis­abil­ity sticker on their back wind­screen.

In­stead of honk­ing or high­light­ing the ve­hi­cle for driv­ing slowly, they kindly move to the side or make way for the ve­hi­cle. It’s in small acts such as th­ese that re­spect is given and earned.

The dis­abled com­mu­nity is made up of strong, tal­ented peo­ple who have dis­cov­ered their abil­i­ties and are us­ing them to the fullest.

Our para-ath­letes are liv­ing proof, and I know that as Malaysians we couldn’t be prouder.

Let’s be more en­gaged, shar­ing their joys and strug­gles and mak­ing the ef­fort to be part of their com­mu­nity. There is much we can learn from them.

Com­ments: letters@the­sundaily.com

Freespace Where young views rule

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.