SUBANG JAYA, May 25 — Among the most hard-hit communities since the movement control order (MCO) was enforced on March 18 are people with disabilities (OKU) who have hardly earned a living during this period.
Most of them who work as blind masseurs and buskers — and even those who sell handicrafts — have had no income due to the social distancing rule brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For blind couple, Mohd Raffi Sulaiman and his wife Tengku Nor Kusmawati Tengku Ibrahim, the MCO has forced them to have a modest celebration for Hari Raya this year as both had hardly earned any income and are unable to return to their hometown.
The calm and collected Mohd Raffi talked softly as he and his wife prepared ketupat — a traditional dish for Hari Raya when Malay Mail visited them recently.
“Raya is different this year as only both of us are here. I can’t return to my hometown.
“This Raya is nothing much for us,” he said.
Mohd Raffi said both he and his wife have lost their income as masseurs since March 18 and have been relying on help from their friends and non-governmental organisations for essential items.
“Since the MCO was enforced I have had no job. No source of income.
“We only received goods and supplies. All from NGOs and other people. That we are very thankful for,” he said.
When asked about what they want for Hari Raya, both declined any aid or donation and said all they want is for the current situation to return back to normal.
“I hope that the situation returns like before so we can go to work.
“It is an honest living,” said Tengku Nor Kusmawati who hails from Kedah.
The couples’ two-bedroom unit at the People’s Housing Project (PPR) Lembah Subang 2 has barely any furniture. It was learned that the lack of furniture is because it makes it easier for the blind to move around.
PPR Lembah Subang 2, located about 17 km from Kuala Lumpur city centre, is home to more than 100 OKUs, mostly from the blind community.
For the PPR’s Block D residential committee chairman, Endi Susilo Tasiron, 34, the sizable blind community here makes the dynamics of residents interesting as other residents are able to help the less fortunate.
“The community started coming to live here after 2016 when the LRT station nearby started operating.
“They also felt this place is safe, as it is a gated community and they feel safe living here.
“We have done many events for the community,” he said.
Endi is no stranger to the blind community having been a volunteer at the Malaysia Association of the Blind and Malaysia Foundation of the Blind for over 13 years.
His wife of five years, Alia Maisarah Ong Abdullah, is also a part of the blind community.
“Actually my challenge has always been explaining to people how they can help the blind.
“When you see a blind person walking and looking for direction, you can’t just grab their hand, you need to talk to them and explain your intention to help them first,” he said.
Endi and Alia both decorated their house with lights and made some ‘kuih raya’ for friends who might visit the couple during the festive period.
Endi coordinates the donation and help meant for the community, which is directed by his mentor, Malaysian Foundation for the Blind chief executive officer Silatul Rahim Dahman.
Silatul has been ensuring the blind community during the month of Ramadan has all the essential items they need.
When met at the PPR Lembah Subang 2 while he was helping with the food donation, the former special aids teacher said it is important to keep the blind community occupied with something to do.
“They (the blind) can’t do things like watching TV, YouTube, Netflix, driving at all.
“What you are looking for is something that you can hear and eat. They can listen to the radio. They look for kuih raya, ketupat and other things to keep them occupied,” he said.
Silatul Rahim became blind after he suffered from a chickenpox outbreak when he was five which took the lives of two of his siblings.
However, he kept working hard and obtained a diploma in Assistive Technology from Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia in the United States in 1989.
He said that the Malaysian public needs to understand and empower the OKU community in order for them to contribute more to the country.
“In everyday life many people with disabilities expect people around to understand their problems and shortcomings while at the same time recognising their advantages.
“We have wasted human resources and human capital because of the lack of ability in empowering 4.5 million Malaysians with disabilities to contribute to the development of the economy,” he said lamenting the loss of income by his friends.
He hopes that newly minted OKU senator Ras Adiba Radzi will address the problems faced by the community and elevate them to reach their full potential.
“We don’t want to see OKU just selling tissue, we want them to own a tissue factory. We don’t want OKU just to play music on the street, we want them to be professional musicians,” he said.