By Lam Yat Yee
“Sympathy’s easy. You have sympathy for starving children swatting at flies on the late-night commercials. Sympathy is easy because it comes from a position of power. Empathy is getting down on your knees and looking someone else in the eye and realizing you could be them, and that all that separates you is luck.” – Dennis Lehane
There’s a lot you can say about Ipoh and her community; from how far she’s come since her humble beginnings to how much further she still has to go.
But one thing that isn’t said enough is how little it caters to those with disabilities.
Dear Reader, look around you; it is stark as day that there are countless interconnected shortcomings when it comes to our town’s current state that affect the disabled in ways that most of us do not detect neither early nor often enough.
Hence, this upcoming series of articles, ‘Can We Make Ipoh Disability-Friendly?’, aims to create awareness and explore the issues and challenges in making Ipoh a warmer place for its people, disabled or not.
To begin, what are People With Disabilities (PWDs), or locally, more commonly referred to as Orang Kurang Upaya (OKUs)?
The Malaysian Government defines PWD as:
“Those who have long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society.”
In short, PWD are people who have one or more conditions that limit their movements, senses, or activities; to the point where they have trouble interacting with the rest of society. Be it conditions present from birth, or due to external factors such as illness or injury.
According to multiple studies, some of the most common disabilities encountered in our country are, in this order: learning disabilities, physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, mental disabilities, and lastly, speech disabilities.
In this series, we hope to shed light upon the myriad of stigmas and stereotypes, as well as infrastructural insufficiencies, systematic flaws, and other challenges faced by Ipoh’s disabled community.
Of course, we hope that you’ll join us as we embark upon this journey.
After all, the absence of a limb, presence of a mental disorder, or any such handicap, does not reduce any person or being to anything ‘less’. In the end, we are human beings, no matter the physical or mental conditions that afflict us.
If you are a PWD yourself, or if you know any disabled person(s) who would like to share their story with us, feel free to reach out to us on Facebook (Ipoh Echo) or Instagram (@ipohecho.my).