Memorandum on Disability Issues For The 9th Malaysia Plan


This Memorandum is the outcome of a workshop held on 20th March 2005 to discuss the issues on disability to be incorporated into the 9th Malaysia Plan. Twenty five persons representing ten disability organsiations of and for the disabled attended the workshop which was held in the YMCA premises at Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. The participating organisations were the Society of Disabled Persons Penang, Asia Community Services, Malaysian Association for the Blind, Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled, Malaysian Spinal Injuries Association, Society of Chinese Disabled Persons Malaysia, Dignity & Services, Damai Disabled Persons Association of Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysian CARE and Salvation Army Malacca.

A Drafting Committee comprising Ms Bathmavathi Krishnan, Ms Lim Kah Cheng, Mrs Mettilda John, Ms Sia Siew Chin, Mr. Murugeswaran Veerasamy and Ms Chan Yoke Sin helped in compiling and finalising the Memorandum.


Among the key policies and strategies of Malaysia’s previous development plans are those geared towards the eradication of poverty, development of human resource, increase in productivity, competitiveness and economic growth. Special emphasis had been given towards improving the participation of bumiputras, people living in the rural areas, the urban poor, orang asli and lately of women. However very little attention has been give to the plight of disabled persons, and their families and care providers.

Rationale for a Chapter on People with Disabilities and Development

Being a disadvantaged group, the disabled in Malaysia have been marginalised from mainstream development programmes. As citizens of this country they have a right to education, employment, proper housing, medical care, accessible transportation, a barrier-free environment, sports and recreation and also a right to participate in all aspects of life. As such their needs are all encompassing, not merely confined to welfare concerns and benefits only. In the 8th Malaysia Plan, the strategies for the improvement of the well-being of disabled persons are contained in a few paragraphs of Chapter 18: Housing and Other Social Services. The progress of programmes for the disabled between 1996-2000 on the other hand are contained in 5 paragraphs (18.54-18.58) and the prospects in 1 para (18.109).

In planning for the disabled, a holistic approach is required. Therefore it is imperative that a chapter be devoted to address the concerns of the disabled in the formulation of the 9th Malaysia Plan to be titled ‘People with Disabilities and Development’ as well as provisions be made for them within each chapter of the Plan to ensure the implementation of the inclusive policy propounded in the 8th Malaysia Plan.

In the past twenty-five years there has been an increasing awareness of issues faced by people with disabilities both in Malaysia and internationally. These developments were in part the result of the various United Nations initiatives; the International Year of the People With Disabilities (1981) followed by the UN Decade of People with Disabilities with its World Program of Action (1983-1993), the Asian and Pacific Decade of People With Disabilities (1993-2002) and the Second Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (2003-2012) with its Biwako Millennium Framework for Action. These programmes have two primary objectives:

1. To achieve an equalisation in opportunities and improved living conditions resulting from social and economic development for people with disabilities.
2. To promote effective measures for the prevention of disability, rehabilitation and the realisation of the goals of full participation and equality for people with disabilities in all aspects of life and economic development.

Malaysia’s commitment in honouring these initiatives was further reinforced through the signing of the Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asian Pacific Region on May 16, 1994. One of the major results of these initiatives was the birth of a new approach to disability issues, in many countries, that recognised the:

(i) Citizenship rights of people with disabilities; and
(ii) Social and environmental nature of obstacles to the achievement of self-reliance and full equality by people with disabilities.

It is with appreciation that we recognise that there have been important and significant measures taken towards the achievement of these objectives by the Malaysian government. Some examples of the government’s commitment are:

1. The formulation of a national welfare policy (1990)
2.The introduction of tax exemptions
3. The incorporation of guidelines for barrier-free access into the Uniform Building By Laws (1991)
4. The formation of a Department of Special Education (1995) and the expansion of special schools and integrated classes for the visually impaired, the hearing impaired and children with learning disabilities.
5. The establishment of an Industrial Training and Rehabilitation Centre for people with orthopaedic disabilities in Bangi (1998)
6. The development of Community-Based Rehabilitation programs (1984)
7. The setting up of the Advisory Panel on the Disabled (1990) and a revamped National Advisory and Consultative Council on the Disabled (1998) to formulate recommendations for facilities, services and programmes to meet the needs of people with disabilities.

However, we express our deep concern that these initiatives and mandates have yet to create a significant impact on improving the lives of people with disabilities in Malaysia. We emphasise that if budgetary allocations are not channelled towards improving their socio-economic status, people with disabilities will continue to be excluded from the mainstream development process. This can be interpreted as a violation of their fundamental rights as citizens as well as a loss to the nation in not harnessing their contributions. We, therefore urge the government to seriously consider the following priority areas of concern:

1. Improvement in the overall quality of life for people with disabilities by alleviating their deprivation, hardship and poverty.
2. Education, training, employment, and participation at decision-making levels.
3. Elimination of discriminatory attitudes and practices, as well as information, legal and infrastructure barriers.
4. Increased allocation of resources to ensure the equalisation of opportunities for people with disabilities and their full participation in society.

We urge the government to address the following important issues, which were highlighted at a Workshop. The following recommendations are submitted for the consideration of the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department for appropriate budgetary allocations for the development of disabled persons under the 9th Malaysia Plan.

1. Recommendations on Education
Equity and right to education are fundamental liberties enshrined in the Federal Constitution. There should be no discrimination against any citizen in terms of access to and financial support for education. Every child has a right to education and should be given equal opportunities to develop his/her potential according to one’s own ability.
The government is highly committed in providing “Education for All”. This should also include education for disabled persons. Discriminatory attitudes towards educating people with disabilities based on traditional and unfounded myths must be replaced with progressive ideas and practices. Although there is no specific piece of legislation to ensure and protect the rights of people with disabilities with regard to education, there are provisions within the Education Act 1966 that enables the Ministry of Education to establish and maintain special schools which provide special education for some categories of people with disabilities. The Department of Special Education established in 1995 looks into the needs of students who are blind, deaf and those with learning disabilities but exclude those who are physically handicapped with the mental ability to follow the normal curriculum and those with multiple disabilities, with “profound physical handicap or with severe mental retardation”. As a result, many students with mobility impairment who are able to attend mainstream schools are not being able to do so due to architectural barriers within the schools and many more disabled children not even considered for education. Currently there are no established support services in colleges and universities for the increasing number of disabled students who qualify to enter tertiary education. Therefore we recommend the following:
1.1 Statutory responsibility for the education of all categories of disabled should rest with the Ministry of Education. It should also include pre-school education as early education is crucial to the development of all children including the disabled. The Welfare Department should not be given the task of looking after the education needs of disabled children below seven years of age excluded under the Education Act as it does not have the expertise and resources to do so.
1.2 The Department of Special Education should be expanded and renamed the Unit for Students with Special Needs. This Unit should employ suitable qualified people (especially at the decision making level) so that they can provide input into the planning of the educational programmes for people with disabilities with regard to curriculum development and research, the adequate supply of appropriate educational materials, availability of suitably qualified teachers, speech and other therapists and a barrier free access to school buildings.
1.3 There should also be better facilities and support services provided at institutions of higher learning for disabled students to pursue tertiary education.
1.4 The government should ensure that all children with disabilities have access to basic education. This will require an increase in the existing facilities to meet the growing demand for education. For a start at least one school in every district should have a barrier-free environment for people with disabilities especially wheelchair users, complete with disabled friendly facilities. Eventually every school should be made more disabled-friendly with barrier-free access.
1.5 The Ministry of Education should reconsider its present requirement that children be toilet trained as a prerequisite for enrollment in special classes in schools. The possibility of providing assistance to children with disabilities should be looked into.
1.6 The Ministry should seriously consider the appointment of attendants at pre-school and primary school level to assist with activities of daily living where necessary to ensure that disabled children will be able to attend school and benefit from the educational opportunities, which they would otherwise be deprived of because of their severe disabilities.
1.7 The government should ensure an increase in the number of special classes or centres providing Early Intervention Programmes and Infant Stimulation Programmes for children with learning disabilities and with multiple disabilities. It is observed that presently only NGOs located mainly in the urban area that have embarked upon providing such services.
1.8 The term “educable” and by implication those excluded as “ineducable” in *Regulation 3 (1) of the Education (Special Education) Regulations 1997 should be amended to bring the responsibility for the education of all disabled children within the Ministry of Education.
1.9 Individualised Education Programmes (IEP) should be introduced for children with learning disabilities who are not able to follow mainstream curriculum. The Special Education programmes for the people with disabilities should be developed in collaboration with special educators, educational psychologists and parents.
1.10 The integration of children with special needs in normal schools as well as pre-school level should be encouraged and systematically introduced.
1.11 Resource Centres on disability issues should be created in schools to provide information and practical assistance to families, educators and planners.
1.12 The Ministry of Education should consider the incorporation of self-reliance programmes into the present curriculum and that this be given priority. This will help alleviate parents’ concern and anxiety with regard to the future of their children with disabilities after their death.
1.13 The Ministry of Education should provide appropriate teacher training courses to enable teachers to cope with teaching students with all kinds and all levels of disabilities who are in the education system.
1.14 Disabled students should be given opportunities to attend secondary vocational schools that provide courses in pre-employment skills as well as general education. If they obtain the National Vocational Training Certificate (NVTC) their chances of securing employment would be better.
* See Appendix V (1)

2. Recommendations on Vocational Training
Currently, there are a number of vocational training centres, run by both the government and NGOs, to cater to the training needs of people with disabilities. However, there is a need for more vocational training centers offering courses which teach skills that are more relevant in terms of providing employment opportunities such as IT and accountancy. For instance, the Gurney Training Centre for the Blind is the only one of its kind in Malaysia. To date, with the existing facilities, only 3000 blind persons have received training although it was projected in 1958 that an estimated 40,000 blind persons would benefit from it. Therefore we recommend the following:
2.1 An increase in the number of training facilities and staff to create more training opportunities for people with various types of disabilities including intellectual disability. The training courses should be relevant and marketable according to current needs. The vocational training and skills programmes conducted by the Ministry of Human Resources, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Youth and Sports should be made available to disabled persons. This would foster integration and help equip disabled persons with skills to enable them to be self-reliant.
2.2 The Bangi Industrial Training and Rehabilitation Centre should be developed into a full-fledged institute offering a variety of courses that could contribute effectively towards enhancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. People with disabilities should be represented in the management of the centre.
2.3 Incentives should be provided to technical and computer training centres in the private sectors, as well as those run by NGOs to encourage them to admit disabled students into their training programmes. These centres should be subjected to incentives such as tax deductions for providing adapted equipment and modifications for barrier-free access. These centres should also adhere to recommended safety standards for the disabled.
2.4 Financial assistance should be provided to existing NGOs who conduct vocational training programmes. To qualify for financial assistance such training centers should adhere to recommended standards of safety as well as provide facilities and accessibility to cater for people with various types of disabilities.
2.5 Retraining facilities for injured workers under the Ministry of Human Resources should be upgraded and implemented so that the disabled workers can be placed in suitable jobs. The Department responsible for retraining should also be able to recommend the necessary adaptive devices required and specifications for a barrier-free workplace for the disabled worker.
2.6 Appropriate training should be provided for people with disabilities to enable them to become independent business owners. Low interest loans should be provided to people with disabilities to encourage them to set up their own business and become self-reliant. Courses in business entrepreneurship conducted by the Ministry of Entrepreneurship should be offered free to disabled persons and this information should be disseminated widely among disability organisations.
3. Recommendations on Employment
In 1989 the government announced that 1% of jobs in the public sector will be reserved for the people with disabilities. In 1990 the private sector was encouraged to do likewise. The Ministry of Human Resources has since helped out in the placement of people with disabilities in suitable jobs. However, in spite of the incentives provided such as double tax deduction for the employment of disabled workers in the private sector, the quota is far from being filled. The Progress Report (1996-2000) of the Mid-Term Review of the 8th Malaysia Plan revealed that only 3,489 jobs in the private sector and 536 in the public sector were offered to the disabled. More than 95% of people with disabilities are still unemployed. Although some may not be able to hold down jobs, a large proportion can still work and contribute to society if given the opportunity, provided with assistive devices and some modifications made for barrier-free access. It is sad to note that while the government has provided jobs for over 2 million foreign workers in Malaysia, the huge untapped workforce among people with disabilities is yet to be recognised.

Significant changes are needed in many areas to increase employment opportunities for disabled people in Malaysia. In order to make employment for people with disabilities a reality the following must happen immediately:
” The rights of people with disabilities to employment and the special needs should be taken into account through supportive legislation, strong enforcement and active monitoring
” Physical access to the built environment especially access to and within the workplace should be free of barriers through suitable modifications
” Public transportation should be made accessible to the disabled to enable them to commute to work
” People with disabilities must acquire knowledge, experience and relevant skills through equal rights to education and vocational training to prepare them for employment
” Negative public perceptions about people with disabilities must be completely removed and they should be given the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes
. Therefore we recommend the following:
3.1 A special department handling job placement for people with disabilities should be established within the Ministry of Human Resources. This department should consider employing suitable qualified people with disabilities so that they can provide input towards the development of job placement programmes. The department should have the following functions:
3.1.1 To look into the implementation of the 1% employment policy for people with disabilities in the public and private sectors. A levy should be imposed on employers not fulfilling the 1% employment quota for the disabled. Such moneys collected should be placed in a fund to be administrated by the special placement department to be used to promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities. It is recommended that the levy be equivalent to the average salary multiplied by 1% of the total employment of the company.
3.1.2 To provide specialised help and support to all employers in the recruitment, training, morale building, promotion and career development of disabled workers as well as job orientation for disabled employment seekers.
3.1.3 To conduct research and disseminate statistical data and research findings regarding the employment of people with disabilities and the challenges they face.
3.2 The employment of people with disabilities should not be restricted to telephone operators and clerks. New employment opportunities should be identified and created in both the public and private sectors. Assistance should be provided to encourage self employment schemes.
3.3 Teleworking opportunities should be considered for the disabled who are home based and those with mobility problems.
3.4 Advertisement offering job opportunities must be worded with special care to include opportunities for disabled candidates. For instance, the sentence “people with disabilities are welcome to apply” could be added.
3.5 The government should train more sign language interpreters and employ them in all critical services such as at hospitals, police headquarters, immigration, courts, etc.
3.6 Employers who employ disabled workers should provide adequate parking space and resting places during lunch breaks for their disabled workers.
3.7 The government should consider making available places and facilities for people with disabilities to carry out business activities. This is to prevent them from doing business indiscriminately in public places. Conveniently located spaces should be provided in the shopping complexes and other strategic areas to enable people with disabilities to operate their businesses.
3.8 A “Buddy System” or “Mentoring Programme” among co-workers should be created for disabled employeeswith learning difficulties to assist them integrate socially and enhance learning speed.
3.9 The government should ratify the ILO Convention (No.159) Concerning Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) *.
* See Appendix IV

4. Recommendations on Housing
Many disabled persons and their families face problems in obtaining affordable and appropriate housing due to poverty, non-enforcement of building by-laws requiring access and facilities for disabled persons, local authority requirements for low cost applicants which work against the disabled (e.g. applicants have to be married when many disabled are unable to find marriage partners due to prejudices) and outright discrimination faced by the disabled
Therefore we recommend the following:
4.1 A 10 % to 20% discount should be given by all housing developers for the disabled .
4.2 The Uniform Building By-Laws requiring access and facilities for disabled persons must be implemented.
4.3 Two (2) schemes to be introduced to meet the need for low cost housing for the disabled population.

4.3.1 Low-cost House Rent / Rent-and-Buy Scheme

(i) The government should be the owners of the low-cost houses. People with disabilities should be allowed to rent the low-cost houses from the government at a minimum rental. After a period of twenty (20) years or such a period as the government deems suitable, the disabled person shall own the rented house.

(ii) The accumulated rental paid to the government over the years shall be taken as the purchase price of the house.

(iii) The unemployed disabled should be allowed to pay the rental through a sponsorship scheme arranged by the respective NGOs (Non-Government Organisations).

(iv) There shall not be any prohibition to the disabled chief tenant if he/she wants to sub-let the house to the other tenants. It is necessary for the disabled (especially those who are intellectually disabled) to stay with their friends as they need companionship and mutual support.
(v) Priority listing must be given to applicants with disabilities. For instance, developers should set aside 5 % of all units in all housing projects for those with disabilities. In the case of flats or apartments, people with disabilities using wheelchairs should be given priority to units on the ground floor. Other categories of people with disabilities, such as the blind and the deaf should be allowed to choose other floors besides the ground floor.
(vi) Those who are physically disabled and need the required modifications to their accommodation should be eligible for financial assistance, of an amount appropriate to the needs, from the government.

4.3.2. Low-cost House Purchase Scheme

(i) People with disabilities within the low salary group should be allowed to purchase low-cost houses. The 20% discount on the purchase price of a low cost house for disabled persons, as announced in the budget 2004 should be implemented immediately and should cover all developers.

(ii) People with disabilities earning less than RM1,500 a month should be given a chance to purchase low-cost houses if they manage to obtain a bank loan to finance their purchase of the house or with the assistance of family members.

(iii)The government should give financial assistance such as interest-free loans to disabled applicants.

(iv) The Government should set up a special unit or appoint a special officer to be in charge of looking into the housing needs for the disabled.

(v)The process of application for low-cost housing by the disabled should be simplified and made accessible to them.

(vi) The government should allocate 10% of the low-cost houses for all disadvantaged groups such as people with disabilities, senior citizens and single mothers), and such houses should have disabled friendly features.

(vii) The Government should keep the NGOs informed and updated on any new low-cost housing development so that the NGOs would be able to inform and help the disabled to make an immediate application.

5.Recommendations for an Accessible Built Environment
The Uniform Building By Laws(1984) under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 was amended in 1990. It makes it mandatory for all new buildings to have facilities and amenities for people with disabilities. Subsequently, The Malaysian Standard (MS 1184:91) Code of Practice for Access for the Disabled People to Public Buildings was drawn up to provide the specifications for the essential provisions that need to be incorporated into all buildings. However, due to the lack of enforcement of the Act and Code of Practice, many buildings are still inaccessible to people with disabilities thereby preventing disabled persons from going to schools, to work, to go about their daily activities such as going to the post office, to banks, to the government offices, etc and from full participation in society.. Therefore we recommend the following;
5.1 Measures to enforce the laws regarding barrier-free access of the disabled to public buildings must be taken.
5.2 All public places should have appropriate facilities such as signages for the deaf and the blind, toilet facilities and adequate parking spaces. Roads, pavements, pathways and walkways, pedestrian crossings (with traffic lights and bleeps) must be made more accessible for people with disabilities.
5.3 More parking lots in the shopping complexes should be allocated for disabled car drivers and motorbike users. Any other vehicles parked in the designated spaces, without appropriate stickers, should be clamped.

6. Recommendations for Accessible Transportation
Lack of accessible transportation appears to be one of the greatest problems faced by people with disabilities. It should be recognised that providing accessible transportation benefits everybody, especially the growing number of elderly people and also parents with young children. We urge the government to introduce a policy to provide accessible transportation in phases, particularly in urban areas. We therefore recommend the following :
6.1 Public transport should be made user-friendly. For example, wheelchair users have difficulty coping with fast closing doors of the commuter trains. The public buses should revert to the old system where all seats face one way so that the seats railings are easily accessible to guide blind passengers. The railings on the roof should be easily reached by disabled standing passengers and the seats themselves should be lower in height for better balance especially during emergency stops. Although there are seats reserved in some modes of transportation for people with disabilities, this policy must be enforced. Special assistance for people with disabilities must be made available.
6.2 The local authorities should consider the use of bigger taxis to accommodate both wheelchair and passenger. A coupon system with a 50% discount for people with disabilities using taxi services should be introduced until the public transport is more accessible to people with disabilities.
6.3 The introduction of a special service at airports to ensure the safe transportation of disabled passengers, their wheelchairs and luggage.
6.4 The government should encourage people with disabilities to buy their own cars by removing the excise duty imposed on all cars.

6.5 Incentives should be offered to transport operators for providing accessible vehicles.

6.6 Standards should be drawn up for accessible public transport vehicles and transport infrastructure based on universally accepted practice, but appropriate for conditions and users in Malaysia. All new public transport vehicles and infrastructure must be made to comply with these standards.

6.7 Require transport operators to provide low-floor buses in urban areas where conditions are suitable.

6.8 Train and sensitise staff of transport vehicles at all levels to be aware of the special needs of disabled persons and to know how to assist them appropriately.

6.9 Enforce the design standards for an accessible external built environment which is vital to provide the link between accessible transportation and accessible buildings.

7. Recommendations on Health and Medical Care
People with disabilities too require adequate health and medical care. Some categories need continuous medical care. Therefore we recommend the following :

7.1 The government should provide health and medical care to all people with disabilities regardless of the type and severity of the disability. People with disabilities should also have access to appropriate specialist treatment.
7.2 The setting up of a rehabilitation hospital for persons with spinal cord injury and those who are chronically ill requiring long term medical care.

7.3 Provision of rehabilitation aids and assistive devices should be fully subsidised by the

7.4 Respite care services should be provided for families of disabled persons who are
chronically ill. A carer system should be organised to help relieve the burden of the families.
The Ministry of Health should work in collaboration with the Welfare Department to draw up
a carer system service for the housebound disabled.

7.5 The Ministry of Health should lend its support for approving applications for financial aid to modify and install additional facilities in houses, place of work or school premises to help improve the lives of disabled persons who have mobility impairment.

7.6 Emergency medical services, medical advice and counselling via telemedicine facilities
should be made available to disabled persons.
7.7 The government should train and provide adequate psychologists, psychiatrist and therapists (physical, occupational and speech therapists), rehabilitation physicians, neurosurgeons and allied health staff to meet the rehabilitation needs of the people with disabilities.
7.8 The therapist should be given due recognition and incentives commensurate with their qualifications and scope of work.
7.9 Medical and para-medical professionals should be given training on specific basic requirements of the different types of disabilities. Paediatricians in particular need to be more knowledgeable in referral services so that they can give accurate information to parents.
7.10 Greater emphasis should be given to training the basic-degree doctors to have the necessary knowledge to enable them to refer people with disabilities to appropriate medical specialists and para-medical professionals.

8. Recommendations on Social Provision

At present there is only minimal financial assistance from the government for people with disabilities and their families. With the rise in the cost of living, steps should be taken to provide a proportionate increase in the financial assistance package to people with disabilities and their families. Therefore we recommend the following;
8.1 The government should seriously consider introducing a disability and unemployment allowance of RM300 per month to assist the disabled to meet the increased cost of living and alleviate their hardship. This would benefit those who cannot find employment or who are unemployable and their families, including disabled elderly persons who are especially disadvantaged.
8.2 The government should make available a Personal Assistance Grant for people with disabilities who need the assistance of an attendant or a maid to enable them to perform activities of daily living. For instance, wheelchair users need helpers, the deaf need sign language interpreters, people with learning difficulties need special attendants while the blind need readers for printed documents.
8.3 Currently the only insurance policy that is available to people with disabilities is life policy which offers only death benefits. Takaful Malaysia is the only company that offers group insurance for disabled persons via associations, covering personal accidents and hospitalisation but this is inadequate as individuals cannot have access to it. Bank Negara should formulate an appropriate insurance scheme for people with disabilities covering health, hospitalisation and personal accidents. The loading on the premium should be abolished.

9. Recommendations on Resources

There are about 230,000 disabled persons in Malaysia with about 132,655 registered with the Welfare Department as at December 2003. We recommend that a National Disability Resource Centre be established, equipped with modern technology, and standard mechanisms for the collection and dissemination of information on disability issues, demographic data pertaining to disability, availability of services for people with disabilities, data on their socio-economic status, employment, educational needs, accomplishments, housing designs and home ownership etc. Therefore we recommend the following;
9.1 More financial support should be given to projects which aim at making information relating to health, education, employment, transportation, recreation, legal rights etc. available to people with disabilities.
9.2 The National Census should be used to obtain relevant information about people with disabilities in the country for the purpose of development planning and providing services and facilities for them.
9.3 The process for the registration of the disabled should be made easier. The National Registration Department should undertake the responsibility of registering disabled persons. Through the electronic database containing information from birth certificates and MyKad, statistics on disability can be easily tabulated.

10. Recommendations on Information Technology

With the advent of the Internet and information technology, a vast array of possibilities are now open for people with disabilities. These range from education opportunities to employment and business ventures. People with disabilities should be given the opportunities to be trained in information technology to enhance their quality of life and work. It is learnt that various institutions of higher learning are willing to offer Information Technology courses for people with disabilities. Therefore we recommend the following;
10.1 While more emphasis be placed on IT training and development for the disabled, existing traditional skills need not be phased out. The disabled should be encouraged to widen their skills.
10.2 The government should make available special educational grants, scholarships and financial incentives to enable people with disabilities to pursue IT related courses.
10.3 Financial assistance should be made available to people with disabilities to purchase computers and to develop educational software.

11. Recommendations on Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)

NGOs have played a significant role in the development of social services in Malaysia. NGOs are also the major providers of services to people with disabilities and their families. The grants they obtain from the government are minimal and therefore, they have to dissipate their energy and resource raising funds from the public for most of their programmes and services instead of concentrating on the work for the disabled. Currently there are many opportunistic companies and people making money for themselves while claiming to be collecting funds for and on behalf of the NGOs, often without their permission or knowledge. Such activities should be stopped. There is too much competition for the limited funds available from the general public. Therefore we recommend the following;
11.1 An increase in the allocation of government grants for NGOs.
11.2 NGOs employing disabled workers should be reimbursed in the form of grants from the government. This would encourage more NGOs to employ people with disabilities and thereby helping to create more employment opportunities.

12. Recommendations on Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR)

The following approach to CBR had been agreed to in 1994 by ILO, UNESCO and WHO:
“Community-based rehabilitation (CBR) is a strategy within community development for the rehabilitation, equalisation of opportunities and social integration of all people with disabilities. CBR is implemented through the combined efforts of disabled people themselves, their families and communities, and the appropriate health, education, vocational and social services.”

The government is committed to improving the CBR programmes and to increasing the number of centres to cover the entire country. It is reported in the Mid-Term Review of the 8th Malaysia Plan that 274 CBR centres have been set up providing services to about 6,229 children nation-wide. Currently, CBR programmes for persons with intellectual disabilities is under the Welfare Department with minimal input from other Ministries and the community at large. The CBR programmes need to be revamped to be more effective in attaining the desired results. Therefore we recommend the following;
12.1 Owing to the fact that many of the clients at the CBR centres would require education and vocational training, a government sponsored study on Impact and Quality is urgently needed to determine the areas for improvement and to establish a relationship between CBR, education and vocational raining. This will facilitate future planning and development of the CBR centres.
12.2 That the government sponsors an Impact and Evaluation study on the current implementation of CBR in Malaysia in relation to the original concept and elements of CBR put forward by ILO, UNESCO and WHO in 1994.

12.3 That the current services of CBR move away from being mere day-care centres or mini-schools. The educational needs of all disabled children should be undertaken by the Ministry of Education in order to promote integration. CBR should concentrate on activities which it was originally meant to undertake, i.e. rehabilitate, work for the equalisation of opportunities and social integration of all people with disabilities through the combined efforts of disabled people themselves, their families and communities, and the appropriate health, education, vocational and social services.

12.4 The needs of children and adults should be addressed separately. Currently children and grouped together with adults of all ages within CBR services which operates more like half-day care centers.

12.5 That the CBR workers be trained to be creative in their support of the disabled and their families in all aspects of basic needs. The CBR programme should include speech, occupational, physio and other therapies, life skills and vocational skills teaching, as well as addressing the transport needs of the disabled to enable them to go to schools, to work, etc.

12.6 There should be a stronger involvement and participation of disabled people, their families as well as the community including NGOs and the private sector.

13. Recommendations on Legislation

People with disabilities in Malaysia are a large group who have been subjected to direct and indirect discrimination. The disability movement is visibly shifting the attention of policy makers from the mere provision of charitable services to actively protecting their basic right to dignity and self-respect. A draft of the ‘People with Disabilities Act’ (2002) had been prepared and submitted to the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. The government has given its commitment in the Mid-Term Review of the 8th Malaysia Plan that the “People with Disabilities Act will be formulated in line with the principle of an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based approach”. We strongly urge that the Act be passed in Parliament within the first year of the 9th Malaysia Plan in order to provide a legal endorsement to the right of access for people with disabilities to education and vocational training; employment; travel on public transport; barrier-free environment and integrated living; information and communication technology; independence and dignity. Therefore we recommend the following;
13.1 The People with Disabilities Act should be enacted as soon as possible and implemented. It should be translated in all the major languages and disseminated so that its various provisions, benefits etc. become widely known.
13.2 A Commission for People with Disabilities be set up within the Prime Minister’s Department to enforce the Act and to co-ordinate the programs and activities for the disabled to be carried out by all the different Ministries.
13.3 Arrangements should be made, either through statutory or voluntary agencies, for providing support and interpretation services in legal and other representation to court, police and other agencies for and on behalf of disabled petitioners, especially the intellectually disabled, the deaf and the illiterate.


The above recommendations are, of necessity, only a segment of the support systems that people with disabilities currently require. Our demand to be treated as equal members of society has been voiced consistently over the past two decades and supported by the government in endorsing and becoming a signatory to all the UN Declarations and Conventions for the promotion of the rights of people with disabilities. However, in terms of implementation of the UN instruments, our country’s efforts fall far short of the stated goals. For the majority of disabled people in Malaysia, their lives continue to be one long struggle as their needs and rights continue to be marginalised. It is our hope that the government in recognising our rights as equal citizens of this country, realise that what we want are not handouts but equalisation of opportunities and full participation so that we can contribute towards nation building. In the long run, it is more cost effective to provide us with education, training and an enabling and barrier free environment than to turn us into dependents living in institutions.


1. Malaysian Association for the Blind
2. Society of Disabled Persons Penang
3. Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled
4. Asia Community Services
5. Malaysian Spinal Injuries Association
6. Society of Chinese Disabled Persons Malaysia
7. Dignity & Services
8. Malaysian CARE
9. Damai Disabled Persons Association of Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan
10. Salvation Army Malacca


The Second Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons 2003-2012
Biwako Millennium Framework for Action:Towards an Inclusive, Barrier-Free and Rights-Based Society for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific
In May 2002, ESCAP adopted Resolution 58/4 on “Promoting an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society for people with disabilities in the Asian and Pacific region in the twenty-first century”. To effectively do so, ESCAP declared an extension of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002 for another decade, 2003- 2012.
“Biwako” comes from the largest freshwater lake (“Lake Biwa”, “ko” means lake) located in Otsu city, Japan. “Millennium” indicates that the Framework is being adopted at the beginning of the new millennium and is also structured to supplement the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and targets. The “Biwako Millennium Framework” outlines priorities on issues, action plans, and strategies towards an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society for persons with disabilities in the Asian and Pacific region. An “inclusive society” is a society for all, “barrier-free society” refers to a society free from institutional, physical, and attitudinal barriers including social, economic and cultural barriers. “Rights-based society” means a society based on the human rights of all individuals where people with disabilities are also valued and placed at the center of all decisions and activities affecting them.
This framework identifies 7 priority areas for action, and strategies to support the achievement of all the targets. The new decade is a paradigm shift from a charity-based approach to a rights-based approach to protect the civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights of persons with disabilities. To pursue the targets and strategies, consultations with and involvement of civil society, inter alia in this decade, self-help organizations and concerned NGOs are very important.
Priority areas of the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action are:
1) Self-help organizations of persons with disabilities and related family and parent associations (SHOs)
1) Government funding and NGO policies are to support SHOs by 2004.
2) Government and civil society should fully include persons with disabilities within the decision-making process.
” Increase the level of consultations with SHOs
” Set up a Government Policy review panel.
” Increase representation of persons with disabilities.
” Improve capacity- building.
” Engage persons with disabilities in rural areas.
” International agencies and NGOs should provide priority to SHOs.

2) Women with disabilities
3) To create and provide anti-discrimination measures by 2005.
4) Self-help organizations’ policies should encourage promoting women with disabilities by 2005.
5) Women with disabilities should be included in mainstream women’s associations by 2005.
Promote equal access and non- discrimination. Increase public awareness and information. Engage representation of women with disabilities. Encourage training, leadership, self-help and capacity-building for women with disabilities.

3) Early detection, early intervention, and education
6) By 2010 75% of children with disabilities should receive full primary education.
7) Children with disabilities should be integrated to MDG on primary education by 2015.
8) Early intervention should be provided to all children by 2012.
9) Ensure that early detection of children with disabilities is provided at a very early stage.
” Set up legislation to enforce Education for All.
” Set up policies, plans, and a budget for Education for All for children with disabilities.
” Data collection and target setting on related issues.
” Provide early detection and intervention services.
” Create accessible schools and school transport by 2012.
” Improve the quality of education for all children.
” Encourage regional cooperation.
4) Training and employment, including self-employment
10) By 2012, 30% of the signatories should ratify the ILO Convention (No. 159), 1983 By 2012, 30% of vocational training programs should include persons with disabilities.
11) Reliable data on employment for persons with disabilities should be provided by 2010.
” Examine, ratify and implement the ILO Convention (No. 159), 1983
” Provide employer incentives and have the government as an employer model.
” Improve training capacity and access.
” Build social partnerships and increase funding.
” Support persons with disabilities in entrepreneurship and credit programs.
” Collect data and disseminate information

5) Accessibility: Environment and public transport
12) Adopt and enforce accessibility standards.
13) Full accessible transport should be new and existing by 2012.
14) Promote inclusive design in loan/grant criteria.
” Exchange information on accessible environments.
” Promote inclusive design principles in professional education.
” Provide innovative techniques to enhance accessibility.
” Appraise mechanisms on standards.
” Include accessibility needs in rural and agricultural development programs.
” Create an access “officer post” at various levels.
” Encourage self-help organizations to present their needs collectively.

6) Access to information and communication, including information, communication and assistive technologies.
15) Provide equal Internet access by 2005.
16) Develop international ICT standards and accessibility by 2004.
17) Develop national ICT standards and accessibility by 2005.
18) Develop a standardized sign language, finger Braille, etc.
19) Establish a proper system of employable sign language interpreters and Braille transcribers.
” Encourage Government laws, policies and programs.
” Set up ICT Accessible Unit in the government and encourage private companies to establish an equivalent unit.
” Encourage universal, open and non-proprietary standards.
” Develop standard character encoding and modeling.
” Support donor agencies to include ICT accessibility in award criteria.
” Establish a regional working group to develop ICT standards.

7) Poverty alleviation through capacity-building, social security and sustainable livelihood programs
20) Halve the proportion of persons with disabilities living on less than $1/day (between 1990 and 2015).
” Include persons with disabilities in poverty alleviation programs.
” Provide data collection, poverty mapping, and funding.
” Develop mainstream disability issues.
” Build strategic alliances among stakeholders.
” Develop prevention and rehabilitation strategy.
” Organize self-help groups including consumer networks.

BMFA full text available at ESCAP web site :


The General Conference of the International Labour Organisation,
Having been convened at Geneva by the Governing Body of the International Labour Office and having met in its Sixty-ninth Session on 1 June 1983, and
Noting the existing international standards contained in the Vocational Rehabilitation (Disabled) Recommendation, 1955, and the Human Resources Development Recommendation, 1975, and
Noting that since the adoption of the Vocational Rehabilitation (Disabled) Recommendation, 1955, significant developments have occurred in the understanding of rehabilitation needs, the scope and organisation of rehabilitation services, and the law and practice of many Members on the questions covered by that Recommendation, and
Considering that the year 1981 was declared by the United Nations General Assembly the International Year of Disabled Persons, with the theme “full participation and equality” and that a comprehensive World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons is to provide effective measures at the international and national levels for the realisation of the goals of “full participation” of disabled persons in social life and development, and of “equality”, and
Considering that these developments have made it appropriate to adopt new international standards on the subject which take account, in particular, of the need to ensure equality of opportunity and treatment to all categories of disabled persons, in both rural and urban areas, for employment and integration into the community, and
Having decided upon the adoption of certain proposals with regard to vocational rehabilitation which is the fourth item on the agenda of the session, and
Having determined that these proposals shall take the form of an international Convention,
adopts this twentieth day of June of the year one thousand nine hundred and eighty-three the following Convention, which may be cited as the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention, 1983:
Article 1
1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term disabled person means an individual whose prospects of securing, retaining and advancing in suitable employment are substantially reduced as a result of a duly recognised physical or mental impairment.
2. For the purposes of this Convention, each Member shall consider the purpose of vocational rehabilitation as being to enable a disabled person to secure, retain and advance in suitable employment and thereby to further such person’s integration or reintegration into society.
3. The provisions of this Convention shall be applied by each Member through measures which are appropriate to national conditions and consistent with national practice.
4. The provisions of this Convention shall apply to all categories of disabled persons.

Article 2
Each Member shall, in accordance with national conditions, practice and possibilities, formulate, implement and periodically review a national policy on vocational rehabilitation and employment of disabled persons.
Article 3
The said policy shall aim at ensuring that appropriate vocational rehabilitation measures are made available to all categories of disabled persons, and at promoting employment opportunities for disabled persons in the open labour market.
Article 4
The said policy shall be based on the principle of equal opportunity between disabled workers and workers generally. Equality of opportunity and treatment for disabled men and women workers shall be respected. Special positive measures aimed at effective equality of opportunity and treatment between disabled workers and other workers shall not be regarded as discriminating against other workers.
Article 5
The representative organisations of employers and workers shall be consulted on the implementation of the said policy, including the measures to be taken to promote co-operation and co-ordination between the public and private bodies engaged in vocational rehabilitation activities. The representative organisations of and for disabled persons shall also be consulted.

Article 6
Each Member shall, by laws or regulations or by any other method consistent with national conditions and practice, take such steps as may be necessary to give effect to Articles 2, 3, 4 and 5 of this Convention.
Article 7
The competent authorities shall take measures with a view to providing and evaluating vocational guidance, vocational training, placement, employment and other related services to enable disabled persons to secure, retain and advance in employment; existing services for workers generally shall, wherever possible and appropriate, be used with necessary adaptations.
Article 8
Measures shall be taken to promote the establishment and development of vocational rehabilitation and employment services for disabled persons in rural areas and remote communities.
Article 9
Each Member shall aim at ensuring the training and availability of rehabilitation counsellors and other suitably qualified staff responsible for the vocational guidance, vocational training, placement and employment of disabled persons.

Article 10
The formal ratifications of this Convention shall be communicated to the Director-General of the International Labour Office for registration.
Article 11
1. This Convention shall be binding only upon those Members of the International Labour Organisation whose ratifications have been registered with the Director-General.
2. It shall come into force twelve months after the date on which the ratifications of two Members have been registered with the Director-General.
3. Thereafter, this Convention shall come into force for any Member twelve months after the date on which its ratification has been registered.
Article 12
1. A Member which has ratified this Convention may denounce it after the expiration of ten years from the date on which the Convention first comes into force, by an act communicated to the Director-General of the International Labour Office for registration. Such denunciation shall not take effect until one year after the date on which it is registered.
2. Each Member which has ratified this Convention and which does not, within the year following the expiration of the period of ten years mentioned in the preceding paragraph, exercise the right of denunciation provided for in this Article, will be bound for another period of ten years and, thereafter, may denounce this Convention at the expiration of each period of ten years under the terms provided for in this Article.
Article 13
1. The Director-General of the International Labour Office shall notify all Members of the International Labour Organisation of the registration of all ratifications and denunciations communicated to him by the Members of the Organisation.
2. When notifying the Members of the Organisation of the registration of the second ratification communicated to him, the Director-General shall draw the attention of the Members of the Organisation to the date upon which the Convention will come into force.
Article 14
The Director-General of the International Labour Office shall communicate to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for registration in accordance with Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations full particulars of all ratifications and acts of denunciation registered by him in accordance with the provisions of the preceding Articles.
Article 15
At such times as it may consider necessary the Governing Body of the International Labour Office shall present to the General Conference a report on the working of this Convention and shall examine the desirability of placing on the agenda of the Conference the question of its revision in whole or in part.
Article 16
1. Should the Conference adopt a new Convention revising this Convention in whole or in part, then, unless the new Convention otherwise provides-
(a) the ratification by a Member of the new revising Convention shall ipso jure involve the immediate denunciation of this Convention, notwithstanding the provisions of Article 12 above, if and when the new revising Convention shall have come into force;
(b) as from the date when the new revising Convention comes into force this Convention shall cease to be open to ratification by the Members.
2. This Convention shall in any case remain in force in its actual form and content for those Members which have ratified it but have not ratified the revising Convention.
Article 17
The English and French versions of the text of this Convention are equally authoritative.


Explanatory Notes
1. Regulation 2 of the Education (Special Education) 1997 Regulations defines pupils with special needs to mean pupils with visual impairment or hearing impairment or with learning disabilities and the special education programme to include special schools, integrated programme in regular schools and “inclusive education programme for pupils with special needs to attend normal classes together with normal pupils”.

2. Regulation 3 of the Education (Special Education) Regulations 1997 states that “pupils with special needs who are educable are eligible to attend special education programmes except for … (those who are) physically handicapped with the mental ability to learn like normal pupils and pupils with multiple disabilities or with profound physical handicap or with severe mental retardation”. A pupil is considered educable “if he is able to manage himself without help’ and is confirmed by a panel consisting of a medical practitioner, an officer from the Ministry of Education and an officer from the Department of Welfare as capable of undergoing the national educational programme
3. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Article 23
1. States Parties recognize that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community.
2. States Parties recognize the right of the disabled child to special care and shall encourage and ensure the extension, subject to available resources, to the eligible child and those responsible for his or her care, of assistance for which application is made and which is appropriate to the child’s condition and to the circumstances of the parents or others caring for the child. 3. Recognizing the special needs of a disabled child, assistance extended in accordance with paragraph 2 of the present article shall be provided free of charge, whenever possible, taking into account the financial resources of the parents or others caring for the child and shall be designed to ensure that the disabled child has effective access to and receives education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services, preparation for employment and recreation opportunities in a manner conducive to the child’s achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development, including his or her cultural and spiritual development
4. States Parties shall promote, in the spirit of international cooperation, the exchange of appropriate information in the field of preventive health care and of medical, psychological and functional treatment of disabled children, including dissemination of and access to information concerning methods of rehabilitation, education and vocational services, with the aim of enabling States Parties to improve their capabilities and skills and to widen their experience in these areas. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.