IPOH - A couple of notable events held in the last fortnight effectively erased the stigma and negative perceptions that people often have about Malaysians with disabilities.
About 400 participants turned up for an awareness forum on Parkinson's disease (PD) held in Ipoh on Oct 13. The organisers, the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association (MPDA) were simply "awed" as they had only targeted about 250 participants.
It was the first time that this first national support group for People with Parkinson's (PwP) and their caregivers had held a forum in Ipoh since its inception in 1994.
The event saw health care personnel telling the crowd that although there is no cure for PD, you can still treat and slow down the effects of the disease and raise the quality of life. It is estimated that there are 50,000 PD patients in the country. It is critical to be diagnosed and treated and to join support groups so as to stay on top of the condition.
PwP and their caregivers also learnt that they can now apply to the welfare department for identification cards for the disabled to get discounts and free treatment at government hospitals and on public transport. However, they will need a recommendation from their neurologist to apply.
There were poignant moments when a 37-year-old woman talked about her five-year struggle with PD.
Forum organiser Samuel Ng recalled that being diagnosed with the disease was a big blow because he was at the prime of his life then. He sank into depression after the news.
However, Ng has not only bounced back but now spends his life helping others in the same situation. In turn, that helps him deal with PD in his own life.
The secret to helping oneself, Ng said, is "not to be invisible but to stand up and be counted by joining a support group and sharing your experience with others as there's definitely still life after Parkinson's."
On the same day at the Kota Damansara Community Forest Park in Petaling Jaya, 100 visually impaired persons proved that being blind should not stop anyone from enjoying himself. The group trekked through the forest with sighted volunteers by their side to mark World White Cane Day, at the event organised by the Petaling Jaya City Council and Friends of Kota Damansara, an NGO.
One of the volunteers was Marcus Foo, a biology student from INTEC College in Shah Alam, Selangor. Foo, 19, wrote in to share his experience: "I was so glad I volunteered for the programme. I learnt that the blind enjoy life just like others and just because they miss out on one of the senses doesn't mean that their life is in shambles.
"I realised that a simple trek into the forest reserve was not as simple for the blind. But they never once complained, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, making me realise how little I actually knew about the disabled in our community. Some of the things that we couldn't care less about in our daily lives can mean a whole lot to people with disabilities.
"I was pleasantly surprised by the great sense of humour of those I met. It was a super idea to have a vocal jam session right there in the forest, where they manifested their great talents. I came away convinced that disability should never be a reason to stop one from doing anything. The blind clearly opened the eyes of all the sighted people that day. They had the clearest vision about happiness and the things that motivate us all towards a higher quality of living."