By Chen Lee Yun
The term disability refers to the lack of adequate power, strength, physical or mental ability, or incapacity that hinders or prevents one from carrying out work or household responsibilities, or engaging in leisure and social activities. This may include visual, hearing, learning, mental, physical, multiple obstacles, and speech impairment.
In the Disability Act, there are guarantees for the disabled - employment, educational, medical opportunities, and the facilities they need in public places. For example, disable-friendly restrooms, parking spaces, elevators, ramps, guide bricks and so on.
In Malaysia, the Welfare Bureau provides an Orang Kurang Upaya (OKU) card for the disabled which allows them to get allowances and benefits – from the employed to unemployed, those under long-term recuperation, and those wanting to start a business.
Now that we have a basic understanding of people with disabilities, let's discuss the difficulties that people with disabilities encounter when they seek jobs. Many companies shut out people with disabilities, and employers have their concerns. Among them are the stereotypes of employers and the perception that people with disabilities are incapable of the job. For example, the hearing and speech impaired, or deaf-mute may have difficulty communicating with other colleagues. Some employers see this as a challenge.
People with disabilities have ways of communicating with other employees, and this can be through text or sign language. However, certain employers are still worried that they, or the company may not be able to provide for the disabled. Small companies are even less likely to spend on necessary equipment for disabled staff.
However, accepting and being empathetic towards people with disabilities is our social responsibility.
Preparing and being able to provide equipment and facilities for disabled staff is a responsibility. Hiring the disabled community should not be seen as a tarnish in company brand or image, and employers should not be worried about their customers being served by people with disabilities. Some employers, even in this progressive world have different views of hiring people with disabilities. For example, some people think that it is dangerous for people with any disability to drive, so they are unwilling to be transported by disabled drivers. In fact, drivers with disabilities must pass more stringent tests than ordinary people, with various procedures and strict checks before obtaining a driver's license, which is certified and passed by the Road Transport Department.
We need to be more accepting and empathetic towards people with disabilities. Acceptance and tolerance is key to inclusiveness. Colleagues of a disabled staff, can learn to work together, by learning sign language, or simply by helping people with disabilities grow and be more comfortable in the working environment. Helping any disadvantaged community integrate into society is a very meaningful thing, and this is a step towards educating the next generation on how to practise inclusiveness.
Each of us should be responsible in building a more inclusive society. People with disabilities do not need sympathy, but empathy does go a long way.
Let us together try to build or progress towards a more inclusive society.