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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Legislation must be amended immediately, says OKU law reform group

The Harapan OKU Law Reform Group has revived its call for the government to amend the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 (PwD Act), following recent discrimination allegations involving a disabled student.

The group urged the government to do so after a disabled student was denied admission into a local public university of her choice due to her disability.

“At (an) international level, there is a clear recognition that ‘inclusion’, or enabling access by students with disabilities to mainstream education, is a critical component to achieving the right to education.

“The government had made a commitment to implement 'inclusive' education. And yet, there has been no consistent strategy in achieving the same. This particular case illustrates the many times that the government has reneged on its commitment," said the group in a statement today.

The student, who uses a wheelchair, claimed that a UPUOnline officer told her that she was unable to pick other university programmes, even though she was qualified, because they did not have the facilities to cater to disabled candidates.

She was only given the option to choose from two diploma programmes and 20 community college certifications despite qualifying for foundation and diploma programmes - even attending an interview for UKM’s Asasi Pintar Pre-University Programme.

In the statement, the group voiced support for the disabled student in question.

“Section 28 of the PwD Act provides for the right of persons with disabilities to receive a general education - pre-school, primary, secondary and higher education, including vocational training - on an equal basis with others.

“It is appalling that such discrimination persists against a person with a disability who has fully met the academic criteria for admission to higher education - on the sole basis of her disability," it added.

It said that prohibiting the admission of a qualified student to a public university of her choice, on the ground(s) of disability, is clearly a violation of the PwD Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which Malaysia ratified in 2010.

Article 5 of the UN CRPD expressly "prohibits all discrimination on the basis of disability and guarantees to persons with disabilities equal and effective legal protection against discrimination on all grounds".

The group concluded its statement by calling on the government to align domestic legislation with the CRPD and to include “comprehensive definitions of disability, discrimination, redress mechanisms and repeal ouster clause”.

The group also previously called for the amendment of the PwD Act in 2019. - Mkini

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