The Persons with Disabilities Act of 2008 defines persons with disabilities 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.” Persons with disabilities (PWDs) are grouped into seven different categories: hearing, visual, speech, physical, learning, mental, and multiple disabilities.
Malaysia passed the Persons with Disabilities Act in 2008. The act affirmed that PWDs have equal access to public facilities, healthcare services, and recreational activities. It also created a National Council for Persons with Disabilities which makes legislative recommendations regarding disability law to the Malaysian government and promotes employment of people with disabilities. The council maintains a registrar of PWDs in each district. Registering as a PWD can prove eligibility for certain government services targeted towards people with disabilities.
Malaysia ratified the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, stating that “Malaysia acknowledges that the principles of non-discrimination and equality of opportunity as provided in articles 3 (b), 3 (e) and 5 (2) of the said Convention are vital in ensuring full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity, which shall be applied and interpreted on the basis of disability and on equal basis with others. Malaysia declares that its application and interpretation of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia pertaining to the principles of non-discrimination and equality of opportunity shall not be treated as contravening articles 3 (b), 3 (e) and 5 (2) of the said Convention.
Malaysia recognizes the participation of persons with disabilities in cultural life, recreation and leisure as provided in article 30 of the said Convention and interprets that the recognition is a matter for national legislation.
Employer Legal Requirements
Though Malaysia has ample legislation promoting rights for people with disabilities, few negative consequences exist for employers who don’t comply with legal recommendations. For example, a law passed which required a quota for disabled people in government jobs has proven to be minimally effective: “In 2008, the Malaysian Government decided that the civil services must allocate 1% of the available jobs to people with disabilities. With this 1% quota policy, it was expected that approximately 14,000 job opportunities in the government sector would have been opened for people with disabilities in Malaysia. However, 5 years later, this 1% quota has not been met. The statistics available from the Department of Social Welfare Malaysia reveals that in the government sector only 581 people with disabilities have been employed since 2008. This failure in integrating people with disabilities into the Malaysian workforce has resulted in an estimated loss in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that ranges between USD $1.68 and US $ 2.38 million.”
Sections 29-32 of the Malaysian Laws under Person with Disabilities Act 2008, among other rights listed:
Persons with disabilities shall have the right to access to employment on an equal basis with persons without disabilities.
Persons with disabilities shall have the right to access to information, communication and technology on equal basis with persons without disabilities.
Persons with disabilities shall have the right to access to cultural life on an equal basis with persons without disabilities.
Persons with disabilities shall have the right to participate in recreational, leisure and sporting activities on an equal basis with persons without disabilities but subject to the existence or emergence of such situations that may endanger the safety of persons with disabilities.
In Malaysia, people with disabilities “face discrimination and obstacles that prevent them from being able to participate in society on an equal basis with others,” and are often in “denial” about present disabilities.
A UNICEF study in 2014 shows that “children with disabilities in Malaysia are often hidden, portrayed negatively and excluded from society. It also highlighted that they face daily stigma and discrimination which compounds their marginalisation.”
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In 2019, only 1.6 per cent of the Malaysian population, or 537,000 people with disabilities, were registered according to a United Nations human rights expert. However, it is estimated that this is unrepresentative of the true number as many indiviudals in Malaysia often deny the presence of disability.
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Talent Sourcing Resources
Specialjobs.com.my is a digital job portal catered to helping people with disabilities find jobs. The goal of the resource is to “increase employment among people with special needs by partnering with equal opportunity employers.”
Malaysia’s Economic Empowerment Program is “a series of programmes aimed at relieving the economic difficulties of Persons with Disabilities (PWD). It is a structured training programme that delivers knowledge, skills, and a positive attitude to PWD so that they can be gainfully employed. Starting with sheltered workshops and homes, it aims to equip PWD for open employment, empowering them to be financially independent from the Government, family and the community at large.”
The Malaysian Information Network on Disability (MIND) provides a list of international and Malaysia-specific organizations related to disability rights. Those relevant to employers and job-seekers include the OKU Jobs Portal and the United Voice: Self-Advocacy Society of Persons with Learning Disabilities Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.