Several initiatives to provide for the training and hiring of those with disabilities

PETALING JAYA: Among the key groups targeted in Budget 2022 are Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) with several initiatives designed to uplift the community, and to increase their numbers within the workforce.

Among the measures are an allocation of RM10 million to implement training and mentoring programmes for the disabled at independent training centres and the Government Industrial Training and Rehabilitation Centre

The government is also planning to develop the Community Rehabilitation Programme (or PPDK), an early intervention medium for children with disabilities to improve their skills and secure employment. Currently only implemented in Universiti Sains Malaysia, the programme will be expanded to other public universities beginning next year.

The government is also encouraging more companies to hire PWDs by setting a special quota of 1% from the Short-Term Employment (MyStep) programme for the disabled under the Jamin Kerja Keluarga Malaysia (JaminKerja) initiative.

Employers will also receive wage subsidies to hire PWDs with 30% of the monthly salary for the first six months and 40% for the following six months on condition that the monthly salary is RM1,200 and above.

One example of a company which has fully embraced the PWD community is Starbucks Malaysia, whose Signing Stores were developed to allow deaf baristas or partners to grow and build their career paths. The first started in Bangsar Village II in Kuala Lumpur and a second Malaysian store was opened in Burmah Road, Penang.

Besides providing an opportunity to work with one of the world’s most recognisable brands, the Signing Stores help bridge a gap between the deaf community and the hearing-abled. The company had partnered with The Society of Interpreters of the Deaf to realise the venture.

Starbucks Malaysia managing director Datuk Sydney Quays said: “I believe that it is a good start for our government, and there should be more companies providing opportunities for the PWD community.”

$!Quays hopes that the government will continue to facilitate the inclusion of PWDs into society and the workforce.

He hoped the government would ensure that companies give due consideration to the skills of PWDs when hiring them.

“For example, people with autism may not be suitable to operate in loud or noisy environments. At Starbucks, we have people with autism who only focus on making beverages because we understand that they need to do things in patterns. For our deaf partners, we created a store designed specifically to meet the needs of the deaf community.”

One of Starbucks’ deaf partners is Tan Xue Mei. The 28-year-old has been working at Starbucks’ Burmah Road outlet for the past two years. She hopes to one day be a certified coffee master, and even a store leader in the future.

“So far, my experience has been very positive,” Mei said. “I truly enjoy working with my hearing and deaf partners. They are very considerate and loving, and the environment encourages very supportive and dynamic teamwork among us.

“Hearing customers and the surrounding community have also been very supportive and willing to learn sign language to communicate with us.”

Both Quays and Mei hoped more would be done to provide PWDsS with training and development to equip them with including special and vocational skills.

Quays said: “Many interpreters do not work full time, which often makes it difficult for us, especially when we need them for our classes, hiring process, training or even when we are doing our events.”

Mei added: “I think there is a need to recognise sign language interpreters as a profession, as many interpreters need to work full time to support their passion in sign language.”

Other companies can look to embed and modify working arrangements to provide the tools to enable PWDs to work, she added.

When tabling Budget 2022, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz had also announced several other initiatives for the community.

In addition to creating disabled friendly infrastructure in public government buildings, the government will bear the full cost of road taxes for all private vehicles owned by the disabled for the coming year, a move to help relieve financial burdens and also encourage more PWDs to be independent and to travel.

T he National Sports Council (NSC) will also receive a total of RM10 million to improve sports training programmes for disabled athletes and to build a sports league for them.