…AND GETTING A BLIND PERSON OR A WHEELCHAIR BOUND PERSON PROMOTES THE STEREOTYPED IMAGE OF THE DISABLED COMMUNITY.
By Mansor Puteh
The disabled community cannot blame me for saying this or want to find fault with what I am saying.
The truth is that the authorities only want to highlight a person’s disability and not his achievement despite it; so the more disabled the person, the more they will want to highlight it.
So the first senator to represent the disabled community had to be a blind person and his successor a woman who is wheelchair bound. They represent the stereotyped image of the disabled community.
In fact, all the activities conducted and organized by the ministry concerned only focus on the disabilities and not on the many disabled persons or Orang Kurang Upaya or OKUs that we have in the country who have done wonders and who are leading almost normal lives so much so that no one knows or cares that they are disabled.
So it was no surprise that a blind person, despite being a professor, was chosen to be the first senator representing the disabled community. He is succeeded by a wheelchair bound woman.
Unfortunately, these two senators were chosen simply because they were physically disabled.
On the contrary, even the able person can represent the disabled community if the person understands the laws and issues related to it, just as a person suffering AIDS should not necessary be good to represent those who are suffering from this dreadful disease.
There was a senator who was said to represent the art community. But what did he do in his two terms in Dewan Negara for the arts? Nothing!
Then we had a senator who was said to represent the disabled community. He was a professor who was blind. And what did he do to the disabled community? Also nothing.
The senator to represent the arts community was for show. And the other senator who represented the disabled community was also for show.
Both of these senators are no more in parliament, with the first one now suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and the other who died while attending a conference abroad.
There is no replacement for the senator to represent the arts community. But there is a successor to the blind professor to represent the disabled community.
And she is an Indian woman who is wheelchair bound who was said to be involved with the issues concerning the disabled since 1978 who was sworn in as senator on 18 November.
And being a disabled person herself, the government thought she would be best suited for the job.
But this may not be so.
Just as being someone from the arts community may not necessary be suitable for him to represent this community in Dewan Negara, being a physically disabled person may not necessary bring any or much good to the disabled community.
The wheelchair bound Indian woman may not be able to do much. If indeed she had done much through all the years she has been disabled and wheelchair bound and serving the community, why then are this particular community of disabled, still disadvantaged by the many issues that the government are still trying to solve and provide them?
Being physically disabled and wheelchair bound puts her in a lot of disadvantage as much as the blind professor who could not be in touch with the disabled community.
Where did they get the idea that someone from the arts community is best to be appointed senator to represent this community and some who is physically disabled and wheelchair bound is best to represent the disabled?
The logic does not make any sense, as what the first two senators have proven, when they did not bring any issue concerning the arts and disabled community in Dewan Negara.
And if the senator for the disabled that we now have is said to be involved with the well-being of this community and who is also in the special community in the ministry, why then does she need to be appointed senator?
Yet, the new senator representing the disabled community is a member of the OKU committee under the ministry of ministry of women, family and community development or kementerian wanita, keluarga dan pembangunan masyarakat, but what has she done so far?
And what has this particular community done for the disabled community so far?
They have not even done much to affect the change of the special OKU card, which is only available in Melayu with no English translation.
This only means that the ministry and committee only see the disabled as being people who cannot move about that much so that they do not need to have such a card that they also can use abroad.
If they are not able to do much even with her in the committee, when what use is there for her to be in Dewan Negara who is in effect speaking to the same ministry?
This committee has also not suggested highlighting the deeds and personal achievements of the disabled in every field.
There are many who excel in their education with some of them who became disabled by accident later in their lives.
There is one who has been a member of parliament in the opposition for many years, but he has never bothered to consider himself to be disabled, and raise issues concerning the disabled.
There were also few university lecturers and senior government officers who were disabled but who did not care about their personal disability who could go on with their lives as though they were normal persons.
They were normal in all sense except for some personal discomfort that they had to ensure, which limits their movements.
There is a redundancy here, which one can easily see, with the creation of this special OKU committee and the promotion of one of its members as a senator, who can never do much.
It is just for glamour, for show, no less. And what better way for the ministry to show that it cares for the well-being of the disabled community is by appointing someone who is physically disabled and sitting in a wheelchair.
A person sitting in a wheelchair as well as a blind person walking with a stick is the stereotyped image of the disabled who comprise of people with a host of disabilities some of which are not seen, so the public does not know that he is indeed disabled.
After all there is no image of the disabled that has been accepted worldwide other than the one showing a graphic image of someone sitting in a wheelchair.
The original designer of this illustration must have got the facts wrong when he came out with such a design which has now been universally accepted as representing the strongest and dramatic image of the disabled.
Yet, the disabled person sitting in the wheelchair is seen to be bald and a small head, which may also indicate that his brain is small.
There is no attempt by anyone to replace this design as it is seen to be the most effective.
So was the appointments of the senators to represent the arts and disabled communities such a good move? One doubts it.
It is just for show.
The arts and disabled communities have not benefited from them being in Dewan Negara.