KUCHING: Sarawak has approved RM50 million under the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) for the construction of a Special Needs Community Centre (SNCC) which will have full facilities for persons with disabilities (OKU).
Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said the budget was also subject to review, adding that a strategic site for the complex was still being looked into.
“We are still in the early stage – the design stage. Once the design of the building is approved later, then the next stage would be calling for tender,” she told a press conference after officiating at the OKU Empowerment Workshop on ‘Accessibility for Physical Disabled Community’ here on Friday (Jan 21).
She said that while there were individual associations which catered to various disabilities and the state’s One-Stop Early Intervention Centre (OSEIC), Sarawak still did not have a centre which encompassed the entire chain of OKU needs from birth to old age.
Thus, she said SNCC would including facilities for screening, diagnosis, education, vocational training, employment, talent development, and residential care for elderly OKU who do not have parents, siblings, or next-of-kin to care for them.
She said the complex, which would be the first of its kind in the country, would not duplicate the efforts of the respective OKU associations but rather supplement and complement them.
For example, in terms of education, she said OKU children would be integrated into regular school once they had successfully undergone rehabilitation.
However, she added that OKU with severe disabilities and who were unable to integrate would remain at SNCC.
“We will fill the gaps so that Sarawak will be a state which can cater fast to the needs of the OKU community. In this way, we will be a socially inclusive society,” said Fatimah.
Earlier in her speech, she touched on the various aspects along the entire spectrum of the life of OKU who required to be given focus.
“It starts from the moment they are born. We want them to have accessibility to diagnosis first – this is the starting point,” she said.
Next, she said, was intervention and rehabilitation. She believed that if this was given at an early stage, the success rate would be much better compared to if one were to be diagnosed much later in life.
“After intervention and rehabilitation is education. We need to create awareness among our parents that no matter how difficult it is, we must provide the opportunity for our children to go to school and get an education.
“It is through this education that they will have the basic skills in life and also be able to socialise with others,” she said.
She said another important aspect stressed was research and development (R&D), explaining that anything done must be evidence-based.
In addition, she said vocational training would enable OKU to earn some income and be as independent as possible.
On employment, she was glad that companies had come forward to ask her ministry and the Sarawak Social Welfare Department (JKMS) if they had OKU candidates for employment.
“I am glad that there are companies and eateries which have made it their policy to take in at least a few OKU in their workforce. This is a step forward.
“We know that getting a job is quite difficult for OKU because there are many obstacles – for instance, some employers would think twice about hiring OKU in terms of productivity.
“So, what we must champion in employment is that there are available jobs which are suitable with the capabilities of our OKU,” said Fatimah.