Moving forward from the Mid-Term General Assembly in October 2010, the National Council for the Blind Malaysia (NCBM) together with its member-organisations continue to organise programmes and activities highlighting the achievements and challenges faced by the blind and vision impaired in Malaysia and the Region. I will attempt to report some of the programmes and activities which have national or regional significance.
1. The Blindness-Specific Skills Upgrading Workshop
This was held from 30 November – 14 December 2010 at the USM campus, and 35 participants from Member Organisations, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) attended. Vision Australia, which signed a MOU with NCBM in November 2010, sent two O&M. specialists – Nicola and Stephen – to assist in the Workshop on that particular skill and waived their professional fees.
An Evaluation Meeting was held on 17 January, 2011 and one of the decisions made was that NCBM, USM, and VA should continue this kind of workshops and to extend participation to the WBUAP Region.
2. The NCBM National Convention
The National Council for the Blind, Malaysia (NCBM), as part of its year-long Silver Jubilee Celebrations, organised a 3-day Convention with the theme “Towards Effective Participation and Equal Rights for the Blind in the 1Malaysia Mainstream Development”. The Convention was held from 5 to 7 December 2011, in Kuala Lumpur. Among some of the objectives of the Convention are: To chart a new direction for NCBM in fulfilling its objectives towards the progressive improvement of policies and services for the benefit of the blind and vision-impaired (BVI) people in 1Malaysia, and to raise the profile of NCBM with respect to relevant Government Agencies, Private Sector Companies and other NGO’s with NCBM as a Strategic Partner in promoting better opportunities for BVI people.
About 100 participants attended. The participants comprised representatives from the member-organisations of NCBM, Special Education Division, Department for Persons with Disabilities of the Social Welfare Department, the Examination Board, and lecturers from three universities which have special education programmes. There were four plenary sessions and five forums involving 24 presenters, nine moderators and eight rapporteurs. At the conclusion of the Convention, the participants adopted a declaration which called for actions to be taken by NCBM, Member-Organisations and the Government.
The Silver Jubilee celebrations was officially launched on 15 October in Sabah, in conjunction with the holding of the World Sight Day/White Cane Day jointly organised by the Ministry of Health, NCBM, Sabah Society for the Blind, Lions and Rotary clubs, and it was graced by the Deputy Minister of Health, Datuk Rosnah.
3. 1Th1 WBUAP Massage Seminar, 3 – 5 May 2012
NCBM hosted this seminar from 3-5 May 2012. 160 overseas and 110 local participants participated. These massage seminars are organised once every two years. The 12th WBUAP Massage Seminar will be held in Thailand in 2014. It is a platform for blind masseurs in the region to exchange skills and experiences so as to upgrade their professional skills.
4. MAB’S Diamond Jubilee Celebrations
The Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) celebrated its Diamond Jubilee in 2011 with several events lined up, amongst them was the holding of the ICT/Employment Day on 1 November which attracted nearly 800 visitors.
Other activities organised in conjunction with the 60th Anniversary Celebrations were the Treasure Hunt to the Gambang Resort in Pahang on October 8th, the Collaborative Charity Music Show with MARA Banting involving blind and sighted performers on October 29th, the K.L. Tower Climbathon on November 12th, the Charity Golf Tournament on December 4th and the MAB Charity Dinner on December 13th.
5. Web Accessibility Workshop in Sarawak
This was held from 12 – 14th October 2011 in Kuching with over 400 participants, including Government and private sector website developers. The Sarawak State Government and the Sarawak Information System (SAINS) sponsored the major portion of the expenditure said to be about USD27,000.
The Workshop was jointly organised by the Sarawak State Government, SKSB, SAINS, and the NCBM Committee on Access to ICT. NCBM took care of the expenses to bring in local and overseas expertise which amounted to USD5,000.
6. National World Sight Day/White Cane Day
The national level celebration of WSD 2011 was held in Suria Sabah, Kota Kinabalu. Activities for the day included multimedia presentation on a documentary “Sabah Mission for Vision”, performances by the blind, eye-care services including screening & treatment, and exhibition of products & activities by the blind.
In Kota Kinabalu, the White Cane Day 2011 was observed on 16 October 2011. Activities organised included a walkathon, performances and exhibition involving the blind.
ShSB collaborated with the Ministry of Health and the Rotary and Lions Club to organise the National World Sight Day.
7. The Mandarin Braille Project
What started off as a casual meeting between NCBM and the Rotary Club in 2011 turned out to be a major project. The Rotary Club of Sri Petaling (RCSP) had committed itself to promoting this Project and had chosen St. Nicholas’ Home (SNH) as its partner for several reasons. After ascertaining from the Ministry of Education that the Beijing Braille version was their preferred choice, the RCSP sent feelers to the Beijing School for the Blind for a fact-finding visit. In March 2012, they sponsored three staff from SNH – Toh Wooi Seong, Angie Ng and Lim Yew Yee – to Beijing for a one-month course.
To further move the Project along in the country, the RCSP, in collaboration with the Nanyang Press Foundation, organised a Charity Dinner on 6 August. The highlight of the event was a musical performance by 16 blind musicians from China.
The Rotary Club of Beijing sent a teacher from the Beijing School for the Blind to Malaysia between 23 July – 14 August to conduct a few sessions, and RCSP agreed to sponsor those sessions. Some of the sessions were conducted in NCBM. It is the goal of RCSP to promote Mandarin Braille nationwide, and NCBM will do whatever it can to achieve the goal.
8. Parliamentary Select Committee (Psc) Public Hearing On Electoral Reform
The Chairman of the Communication & Accessibility Committee of the Society of the Blind Malaysia (SBM), Mr. Loh Kong Ken appeared at the PSC Public Hearing on Electoral Reform on 11 November, 2011 in the Malaysian Parliament. A memorandum requesting to allow trusted friend of the blind voter to assist him/her during voting.
Previously, only immediate family member of the blind voter, namely parents, spouse, children and siblings were allowed to assist the blind voter. Due to this provision, there were occasions when the wishes of the blind voters were not being followed.
As a result of the memorandum, the PSC agreed to amend the Election By-laws immediately and shall take effect for the forthcoming General Election.
9. National Visually Impaired Youth Summit (NVIYS) 2011
The National Visually Impaired Youth Summit 2011 was held from 29th to 31th July, 2011 at the Tanjong Bunga Beach Hotel, Penang. A total of 50 participants comprising 25 BVIs from Malaysia, 15 BVIs from Asia Pacific, 6 SBM members from the Committee on Youth Development and 4 volunteers participated in the conference. The theme of the conference was ‘Taking Control of Our Destiny’.
The objectives of the conference were to:
- Establish a mechanism to gather information on BVIs issues and to share the success and challenges facing the BVIs;
- Nurture the leadership spirit amongst the participants; and
- Develop an Action Plan for the BVI youth in Malaysia.
The SBM Presidential Council felt that it is very useful and beneficial for the BVI youths in Asia Pacific and have decided to organise the conference bi-annually. SBM is very grateful to NCBM for partially sponsoring the conference.