Society must be more sensitive to the needs of the disabled people

By Nurul Hanani Hasmin

“There are approximately three million disabled people or OKU  (Orang Kelainan Upaya) in Malaysia today struggling to find what they need and want because the provision of support, product and service is fragmented and poorly connected,” said the founder of We CARE Journey, Edmund Lim Soon Chin.

The facilities for disabled people in Malaysia, can be seen as being misused by the irresponsible public that gives a deep impact to the  OKU themselves. Although the government has provided facilities that help the OKU but some of the facilities were used and destroyed by those who are not responsible enough to understand the consequences of their acts towards other people.

Nowadays we can see that some facilities such as parking lots, elevators, or toilets that are reserved for the OKU are used by those who are healthy and in good physical shape. This is because our people are not sensitive or are not aware of their responsibilities towards the OKU around them. They do not understand the problems faced by the disabled.

I still remember the day when I was hanging out with my friends in IOI Mall. I saw three sisters waiting in front of an elevator with their mother who happened to be an OKU. Their mother is a wheelchair user. It made us wanting to see just how patient this family would be in waiting for the elevator to be unoccupied by those who are still blessed with two strong legs.

After fifteen minutes, I decided to go and ask this family how long have they been waiting for the elevator and one of the sisters answered that they have waited for almost 30 minutes. I can see the tiredness in their mother’s eyes.

I observed that every time the elevator is open, all people in the elevator are healthy enough to go up and down the stairs on their own. They can see that there is a wheelchair user and those with baby strollers waiting but they choose to ignore them.

“People are not concerned about OKU and do not care about making way for her,” said one of the sisters, Norazra Zakaria.

“People even use OKU’s parking space to park their motorcycles and shopping trolleys,” she added.

It is such a disappointing moment when you realise that people do not care or at least try to give priority to the OKU to use the facilities when that is the only choice that they have. Talking about irresponsibility, we can see that there are many signs in public transport that remind us to give up seats for people with disabilities, the elderly and pregnant women.

“Malaysia does have many facilities for the disabled people but not many people in our society are aware of their responsibility,” said Syahidah Saludin.

“Nowadays, you can easily see people blocking the entrance that is meant for wheelchair users.”

Besides shopping mall, we can also see that even clinics do not have accessibility for the OKU. Accessibility here refers to the design of products, devices, services or environment for people with disabilities.

Even if they do have the accessibility, they tend to be farther than the clinic which make those who are with wheelchairs taking a longer way. They should at least minimise the barrier of distance for the OKU.

“My dad’s eyesight was getting worse to the point where he cannot see anything. When I was sending him to the hospital, I parked my car for a while at the OKU parking space and was forced to move my car by the guard,” shared Sarah Sabri.

“The guard insists that the OKU parking space is only for the OKU driver. If that is the case, am I supposed to just let my dad, who is an OKU, wait for me just because he is not the driver?” she asked.

The meaning of OKU’s signs in the parking space should be more general and include the person who ferries the OKU. Although it should prioritise to the OKU drivers, they should also give priorities for the families who bring their family member who is an OKU.

“Drivers who are OKU are not the only people who need parking space but also others who are taking the OKU family members,” said Norazra Zakaria.

Many people do not know what it feels like to be a disabled. In my opinion, we will never feel what others feel until we put ourselves in their shoes.

The disabled people also have feelings like every human being, thus it is important for us to think whether our action or behaviour could affect the other party and not to only think about ourselves.***

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