The recent statement in Parliament by the Human Resources Minister on “very few cases” of workplace discrimination faced by persons with disabilities has led us to question: why has the government not fulfilled its promise of 1 per cent of civil service jobs for disabled persons?
The government policy target has existed since 1988: 1 per cent of the employees in the civil service should be persons with disabilities. Now, 35 years later, this promise has not even come close to being achieved.
As of September 2022, only 0.3 per cent of the civil service are persons with disabilities. Some ministries have very poor rates of only 0.1 to 0.2% (see image below).
Hence, we need to ask why? Why the significant failure after 35 years?
Public Services Commission (SPA) data has shown that, for 2022 (data as of September 2022), of 3,777 civil service job applications by persons with disabilities, only 1,008 (27 per cent) were called for an interview (see image below).
This clearly shows the high level of rejection of persons with disabilities at the application phase, even before they have a chance to be interviewed.
We need to ask: what were the reasons for all these rejections? Were they not qualified for the job?
Was there discrimination? What was done to support all those rejected in getting employment? Presumably, only those who met the academic criteria applied.
Even more dismal is the employment rate. Of the 3,777 applicants, only 71 (1.9 per cent) were employed. The following are noteworthy:
- The rate of employment of those who came for an interview was 71/468 or 15 per cent.
- Rates of employment for persons with learning disabilities, persons with speech or hearing disabilities, and persons with psychosocial disabilities were much lower than those of persons with physical or visual disabilities. There could be discrimination by type of disability.
After 35 years of policy implementation failure, the time has come for an audit of the government employment process of persons with disabilities.
This must examine, among others, pre-employment, including vacancy announcements and recruitment, as well workplace attitudinal orientation and other reasonable accommodation in the civil service.
The design and implementation of this audit must be fully supported by the government and be led by disability rights advocates and organisations who have the necessary networks, to examine the reasons for the 35-year failure and how Malaysia can advance on this matter.
The national Pelan Tindakan OKU 2018–2022 includes the establishment of an audit access team to ensure workplace accessibility and reasonable accommodations, in alignment with the 1 per cent civil service employment quota. However, this vital initiative remains unfulfilled.
In addition, a target KPI of at least three ministries with 1 per cent OKU by 2018 was set. Unfortunately, only one ministry, the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development has fulfilled this KPI as of 2022.
The lack of accountability and monitoring regarding the implementation of such measures poses a significant challenge. Without acknowledgement of failure and the will to pursue a comprehensive approach to policy and plan adherence and accessible workplaces, Malaysia will continue to fall short in meeting its 1 per cent quota of civil service jobs for persons with disabilities.
Equally essential is the need to ensure the accessibility of information related to hiring processes, accommodating diverse needs such as the following:
- Braille for blind persons.
- Screen-reader accessible government websites, apps, and e-government forms and other documentation that are compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for blind persons and persons with other print disabilities.
- Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (BIM) interpretation services for deaf persons.
- Easy-Read or Plain Language for persons with intellectual or learning disabilities or cognitive impairments.
Neglecting to provide information in formats that diverse disability groups can access constitutes discrimination at the very outset of the selection process.
With 16 per cent of the population having a disability, it is unwise to ignore this potential workforce. We hope that the Government will take concerted action to fulfil a long-standing promise made to persons with disabilities.
- Dr Amar-Singh HSS, Person with dyslexia, child-disability activist, Advisor National Early Childhood Intervention Council, Advisor National Family Support Group for Children & People with Special Needs, Member, The OKU Rights Matter Project.
- Dr Shyielathy Arumugam, Advisor of National Family Support Group of Children and People with Special Needs, Inclusive Education Advocate, Parent Advocate.
- San Yuenwah, person with invisible disabilities; Member, The OKU Rights Matter Project; Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group.
- Beatrice Leong, Autistic Adult, Founder of AIDA (Autism Inclusiveness Direct Action Group).
- Yana Karim, Boleh Space Co-Founder.
- Srividhya Ganapathy, person with ADHD, Co-chairperson CRIB Foundation.
- Dr Naziaty Mohd Yaacob, polio survivor and person with multiple disabilities; Accessibility and Mobility Advisor-cum-Trainer; former Member, Majlis Kebangsaan Orang Kurang Upaya (MBOKU), 2008-2012; and former Associate Professor of Architecture, Universiti Malaya.
- Yap Sook Yee, Parent to a child with disability, child disability advocate.
- Dr Anthony Chong, Deaf, Co-Founder/Secretary of DAWN (Deaf Advocacy and Well-Being National Organisation, Malaysia).
- Anit Kaur Randhawa, Parent advocate; Member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group; Member, The OKU Rights Matter Project.
- AI-Na Khor, Founder and CEO of Asia Community Service. Advocate & Friend to Persons with Intellectual Disabilities.
- Ch’ng B’ao Zhong, Autistic Adult, Licensed and Registered Counsellor.
- Meera Samanther, Former President of Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) & Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO); Executive Committee Member of AWL; Member of Harapan OKU Law Reform Group; Parent Advocate, Disability & Gender Activist.
- Elijah Irwin, Officer, Malaysian Foundation for The Blind (MFB).
- Murugeswaran Veerasamy President Damai Disabled Person Association Malaysia.
- Vicky Chan, Deafblind Advocate.
- Albert Wong Tuong Chui, Chairman, Sarawak Society for the Deaf.
- Sharifah Tahir, Dementia Care Partner, Advocate, Founder of UniquelyMeInitiatives (UMI).
- Bathmavathi Krishnan, President, Association of Women with Disabilities Malaysia.
- Ng Lai-Thin, care partner and project lead, National Early Childhood Intervention Council, and member, The OKU Rights Matter Project.
- Kaveinththran, disabled human rights activist.
- Boleh Space.
- Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar, Spokesperson, SIUMAN.
- Annie Ong Hwei Ling, Deaf, President of National Organisation of Malaysian Sign Language Instructors (NowBIM).
- Mary Chen, Chairman, Challenges Foundation.
- SIUMAN (Rangkaian Solidariti Demokratik Pesakit Mental).
- Maizan Mohd Salleh, Founder & President of the Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Albinism Association.
- Mimie Rahman, person with ADHD; Managing Director & Licensed Counsellor, MINDAKAMI.
- Moses Choo Siew Cheong, Blind person; former Member, Majlis Kebangsaan Orang Kurang Upaya (MBOKU) during 2016-2021; independent consultant on ICT for Blind persons and persons with Low Vision.
- Dr Daniel Leong Han Ming, Autistic Adult.
- Alvin Teoh, Parent Advocate, Co-ordinator National Family Support Group for Children & People with Special Needs.
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