By Aida Mokhtar
Disability inclusion was the main theme and an important theme of the visits by the Disability Services Unit (DSU) of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) to Dar al-Hikmah Library of the IIUM Centre for Foundation Studies (CFS) in Gambang, and IIUM Kuantan campus that was carried out on Friday, 31 March 2023. Coincidentally, it was two days prior to World Autism Awareness Day celebrated every year on 2 April.
Upon the invitation of Madam Sahaniza Ibrahim, Head of CFS Dar al-Hikmah Library, DSU proceeded to meet her team with regards to providing recommendations on how to support students with disabilities at the CFS library. Another visit ensued soon after to IIUM Kuantan where there was a meeting with Br. Adam Ali, Head of the Residential & Services Department of IIUM Kuantan, and some students with disabilities.
The Disability Services Unit (DSU) team comprised Prof. Dr. Ruzita Mohd Amin, Head of DSU; Sr. Halimatus Saadiah Bt. Mahali, the Administrative Director; Br. Muhamad Izzat Izzuddin bin Saharuddin, a volunteer and, Br. Nur Arif bin Jasmin, an IIUM PhD student with autism and I, the Coordinator of DSU.
The receiving team from Dar Al Hikmah Library of IIUM CFS was led by IIUM CFS staff, Br. Faizal Hazri Bin Mat Ripin, Senior Librarian. His team encompassed Br. Taifunisyam Taib, the Deputy Dean of Student Development & Community Engagement (SDCE); Br. Fadzil Jumman, Deputy Director, Human Resource Department; Br. Abu Bakar Omar, Senior Assistant Director, Residential, Discipline & Welfare Department; Br. Mohammad Romaizwar Bin Mohd Jamaludin, Assistant Administrative Officer and Students with Disabilities Liaison Office; and Br. Nor Iskhandar Adnan, Senior Librarian, Dar al-Hikmah Library, IIUM Kuantan Campus.
I highlighted in the meeting that it is best that the library provides support to all persons with disabilities from all categories such as: Hearing disability, Visual disability, Speech disability, Physical disability, Learning disability, Mental disability, and Multiple disabilities. Some of the recommendations as a result of DSU’s prior discussion impressed on the need for wheelchair-accessible musollas, carrels, library book drops, lifts, the need for a phone number for students to contact staff for assistance, the installation of screen readers on computers, the use of tactile floors for students who are blind, blinking lights to alert students with hearing impairment of the library closure, Disability Equality Training (DET) and Disability Services Training for library staff and a softcopy of the library floor plan for students to use. Soon after, a tour of the library ensued where the DSU team saw first-hand the different services provided to students, and further recommendations were made.
The DSU team proceeded to meet Br. Adam and some students with disabilities in IIUM Kuantan campus. The meeting touched on how residential halls could accommodate students with disabilities and whether the students required any support.
Prof. Dr. Ruzita mentioned that there were some lecturers who wanted to provide support to students with disabilities but did not know how to and DSU is always ready to provide advice on this matter. She also said that students with disabilities should be given the opportunity to contribute in a big way to group work, like other typical students, and not be given minor roles.
Both fruitful meetings saw the embrace of the Disability Inclusion Policy of the IIUM in practice. The IIUM prides itself in providing an inclusive environment for persons with disabilities whether it is students or staff and more recently, IIUM staff who have children with disabilities (known as Special Parents).
Disability inclusion is also an Islamic practice, as we are also reminded of the time when Allah SWT reprimanded Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) for turning away Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom, who was blind, as the Prophet was talking to Quraysh leaders in the hope they accepted Islam when Abdullah should have been attended to as he was seeking knowledge of the Qur’an from him (Surah Al Abasa 80:1-10).
DSU can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information please refer to: https://www.iium.edu.my/office/DSU. ***