By Nur Fatini Abd Ghoni
In Malaysia, people with disabilities (PWDs) can be categorised as one of the vulnerable minority groups. According to Department of Social Welfare, in December 2012, the total number of disabled stood at 305,640 people.
We have heard news either negative or positive about the treatment that people with disabilities receive in this country. Some of them have been neglected or abused by their own family members.
I am somewhat concerned with the subject of disabled people as my youngest brother is faced with down syndrome. He is now 14 years old. To be honest, I was embarrassed to have a brother having this problem. When I was younger and studying in a boarding school from form 1 until form 5, I had this feeling of being ashamed of my own brother. I felt uncomfortable when my brother came to visit me at my hostel.
This is because the perception of others had made me felt so. They were avoiding us when we were at shopping complex or they gave us a weird look. Besides, I also received negative comments from my friends about my little brother. They were mocking him and insulting my parents for having a disabled son.
However, at the end of 2011, after I finished my high school and was waiting for my Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) result, I spent my time at home with my little brother. That was the moment I started to really know him and I felt so much love for him. We became very close and I started to understand his ‘differences’ and behaviour. He cannot talk properly, but we as his family members, tried to understand what he wanted to say to us.
I experienced also the hardship that my parents have to bear all this time. Even though he was at 9 years old at that time, it was hard to deal with him. He went to a school nearby our house. It was so hard to even dress him up and prepare him to go to school. It has been harder for me when I went to his school and there were students trying to bully him. I felt very hurtful when I heard people mocking him. But he did not respond anything, and he just smiled at them, maybe he did not even understand what they said to him.
However, not all people are cruel to him. There are still many people who helped him up to be a better person. There are many people who respect his right. There are still many people who never look down on him.
I have one of the most shocking and memorable incidents with him. One day around two years ago, it was close to Hari Raya celebration, so we went to a shopping complex as part of our preparation for Hari Raya. We brought him so that it was easier to find his clothing. He was hyper-active. When we were choosing the clothing, suddenly he ran away. My elder brother tried to find him, but he failed. It happened so fast and we could not find him anywhere.
We looked for him all over the place and all over the town. At that time, I was so scared. All the negativity came to my mind. I was so afraid of losing him. I cannot imagine if I lost him forever.
It had been nearly three hours and we still could not find him. We searched him at every shop in town. But, we still could not locate him. After that, my mother decided to make a police report, because of his condition, if someone tried to do something to him, my little brother could not do anything in return. He can’t even talk well.
Suddenly, praise to Allah, from far away I saw him behind a building. He looked clueless and tired. Nothing more I felt except my gratitude to Allah.
I have to admit, it is not easy to deal with people of disability. It is not because they are difficult to handle, but it is because of the ‘special differences’ in them that we the normal people have difficulties to understand.
Nor Fadilah Abu Hassan, 23, shared her experience in teaching the disabled students during her practicum period in SMK Abu Bakar Baginda and SMK Bandar Baru Salak Tinggi. An undergraduate student of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) studying for a degree in education (special education), she was dealing with students from different types of disabilities such as autism, intellectual disabilities, hyper-active, physical disabilities and also multiple disabilities.
“I was in the class, and suddenly a student was crying. So, when I tried to comfort her, unfortunately, one of my students, suddenly slapped me on my face. I was so shocked and in pain because he slapped me very hard,” Nor Fadilah narrated about her experience.
She said, “I agreed there are many challenges in teaching students with disability because we need to be very patient with them for example, if we teach them something today, but tomorrow they will forget everything. So, I need to teach them the same thing over and over again.
However, as a teacher, I believe the key in teaching and dealing with disabled students is the high patience expected of us. I need to be soft but firm when teaching them.”
Therefore, I appreciate the initiatives taken by the government to help the disabled people in this country. I admired the teachers and coaches of these disabled people. The effort of teaching and coaching them are much harder than teaching and coaching the normal people. However, all their hardship in handling the disabled people to help them be better persons will be blessed with great reward from Allah.
I recall one of the heart-breaking news recently when an Immigration officer found a disabled boy locked in a room in a house in Nilai. The boy, Muhammad Firdaus Dullah, 15, was found alone in a dirty and smelly room full of faeces. He looked so hungry and thin.
A week after the unpleasant news about Muhammad Firdaus, Malaysians were shocked by another news of a down syndrome woman found locked in Pasir Pekan, Tumpat, for almost ten years by her siblings after the death of their parents. The victim, identified as Nazitah, was saved by the police and the Welfare Department officials who arrived at the location following a report from the villagers. She was found miserable in a dark room under the house.
Parents or family members with a disabled children should not neglect their needs and rights. They are also the same like us, as human beings, we have several needs. As for them, they need extra attention, care and love from us. We should not make them feel different from us.
The parents and families of these special kids are the chosen ones by Allah S.W.T to deal with this hardship. As Allah said in Holy Quran, surah Al-Baqarah, verse 286, “Allah does not charge a soul except (with that within) its capacity”. Therefore, as a family for these special people, we should not be ashamed of them. We should not neglect and abandon them. We must try our best to understand them, and encourage them to be better persons and accept their ‘differences’ compared to others.
The outstanding achievements of the Malaysian athletes in the 2016 Rio Paralympics have become an eye-opener for Malaysians to appreciate and change their negative perception towards the disabled people.
The athletes have created history for Malaysia by winning two gold medals and have shocked the entire nation by setting a new world record. The first gold medal was won by Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi with cerebral palsy and the second gold medal by Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli with intellectual disability and he had set a new world record.
The outstanding achievement by these Paralympic athletes is one example that people with disability can also be successful in this world. Therefore, we should give them all the encouragement.
The disabled people are not really different from us, but they just have to face one ‘special’ test from Allah. For me, the worst disability is having a bad attitude towards people with disability.***