When will Malaysian govt fulfil promise of 1pc jobs for disabled persons, asks activists

Several activists, including disabled persons, have questioned the Malaysian government’s lack of initiative in fulfilling its promise of having at least one per cent jobs for disabled persons.

Thirty-one of them, including senior cosultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar Singh HSS, Autism Inclusiveness Direct Action Group founder Beatrice Leong, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group member Meera Samanther, National Organisation of Malaysian Sign Language Instructors president Annie Ong Hwei Ling, and Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Albinism Association founder and president Maizan Mohd Salleh, pointed out that the government’s policy of being inclusive had existed since 1988.

Dr Amar, who is a person with dyslexia, is also the advisor of the National Early Childhood Intervention Council and National Family Support Group for Children & People with Special Needs, and a member of the OKU Rights Matter Project.

“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 comprises persons with disabilities. Some ministries have very poor rates of only 0.1 to 0.2 per cent (Image A),” the group said in a statement this morning.

Image A

“Hence, we need to ask why. Why the significant failure after 35 years?”

The group added that data from the Public Services Commission showed that as of September 2022, of the 3,777 civil service job applications by persons with disabilities, only 1,008 (27 per cent) were called in for an interview (Image B).

Image B

They said this clearly showed the high level of rejection of persons with disabilities at the application phase, even before they had a chance to be interviewed.

“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,” the group added.

“Even more dismal is the employment rate. Of the 3,777 applicants, only 71 (1.9 per cent) were employed.”

The group added that the rate of employment of those who came in for an interview was 71 over 468, or 15 per cent, and that the rate of employment for persons with learning disabilities, persons with speech or hearing disabilities, and persons with psychosocial disabilities was much lower than those of persons with physical or visual disabilities.

“There could be discrimination by type of disability,” the statement read.

“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 as workplace attitudinal orientation, and other reasonable accommodations 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 group said that the Malaysian Plan of Action for People with Disabilities 2016-2022 includes the establishment of an audit access team to ensure workplace accessibility and reasonable accommodations, in alignment with the one per cent civil service employment quota.

“However, this vital initiative remains unfulfilled. In addition, a target key performance index (KPI) of at least three ministries with one per cent disabled persons by 2018 was set. Unfortunately, only one ministry, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, fulfilled this KPI as of 2022.

“The lack of accountability and monitoring regarding the implementation of such measures poses a significant challenge. Without acknowledgment 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 own one per cent quota of civil service jobs for persons with disabilities.”

The group said that it was essential to ensure the accessibility of information related to the hiring processes, accommodating diverse needs such as the following:

  • Braille for the blind;
  • Screen-reader accessible government websites, mobile applications, 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 (sign language) 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 33.57 million population in Malaysia 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,” the group added.