ON a cold rainy evening, a busker sets up a chair and equipment near the Bukit Bintang monorail station in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. “Abby”, in her 30s, is blind but independent, navigating the streets without a guide.
Blinded by a fever at nine, Abby earns about RM1,200 a month by busking and selling tissues. About a third of that amount goes towards her room rental.
Abby learnt her busking skills from the Malaysian Association of the Blind (MAB), the premier voluntary organisation in Malaysia serving the visually impaired.
Established in 1951 to look after the general wellbeing of the blind, MAB has since extended from Kuala Lumpur to other parts of the country.
It conducts educational programmes, rehabilitation courses, vocational training and placement services. Its Braille library, “talking” book library, Braille Publishing Unit other services also help many users, like Abby, to develop skills and be contributing members of society.
Another association is SBM (Society of Blind Malaysia), which has about 6,000 members. SBM is a non-religious, non-political, national voluntary organisation of the visually impaired whose goal is to secure equal rights and opportunities for the blind.
Despite having skills and an education, many still can’t land jobs commensurable with their qualification. There are more than 36,000 blind recipients of welfare aid who get RM350 a month.
Abby, who holds a diploma and degree in human resources from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), hopes to continue studying abroad and end the stigma attached to her condition.
Every election, the blind community submits a memorandum to Parliament to fight for their rights. Thirteen elections later, they are still waiting for their rights to be heard. – March 16, 2018.