‘Disabled need better support plan’

PRIORITY: First disabled woman senator to help revamp support system for disabled.

KUALA LUMPUR: IN 1975, Universiti Malaya student Bathmavathi Krishnan’s world was thrown into chaos when she was mowed down by a vehicle while on campus grounds.

The accident damaged her spinal cord and left her paralysed from the waist down.

However, far from letting it affect her, she overcame great odds and is now a senator.

Bathmavathi, 59, is the first disabled woman to be appointed senator and only the second disabled individual to become a member of the senate after late Prof Datuk Dr Ismail Md Salleh.

Recalling the difficult times, Bathmavathi said her early years after the accident taught her to be independent.

“I did not socialise much (in university) as I felt inadequate, but I gradually gained confidence and eventually started to drive myself. I was not afraid to ask for help but I would only ask when I really needed to.”

She said her experience as a disabled person also made her realise that changes were needed to make life better for the disabled.

“Not many were aware of the needs of the disabled at the time, so I had to adapt to my new environment. It was often a struggle,” she said, adding that she received invaluable support from her family and close friends.

As a senator, Bathmavathi aims to make full use of the opportunity to push for a revamp of the support system for the disabled.

The current system, she said, dates back to the “British colonial era” and needs to be overhauled to support the current reality.

“We can refer to Japan and India, where programmes for the disabled are complete and comprehensive yet do not incur large costs, compared with developed Western countries.”

She said cash handouts alone were insufficient and a comprehensive plan plus proper allocation of funds ought to be made for the disabled community.

These, she said, involved making old and new buildings, especially schools and universities, disabled-friendly.

Bathmavathi also believed that a government-funded “caregiver system” needed to be implemented to provide support services for aging disabled individuals and families with disabilities.

by Haikal Badrul Hisam.

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