'Malaysia needs more jobs for PwDs'

Cafe project provides jobs, social inclusion for autistic youths

30 Mar 2024 07:02am
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Photo illustrated by Sinar Daily
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Photo illustrated by Sinar Daily

SHAH ALAM - Malaysia urgently needs to create more job opportunities for persons with disabilities (PwD), stresses Autism Cafe Project founder Mohd Adli Yahya.

Despite having fewer than 20 cafes across the country offering promising employment prospects, and with the number of PwD increasing annually, Adli highlighted the significance of addressing essential needs and promoting social inclusion for individuals with disabilities.

"As they grow older, individuals with autism spectrum disorder require more than basic necessities; they deserve access to a fulfilling life," Adli told Sinar Daily.

Often, PwD experience social isolation due to parental reluctance to integrate them into society, resulting in limited social interactions.

"Put yourself in their shoes; being confined to the home without friends can be distressing," Adli said.

However, at the Autism Cafe Project, PwDs discovered purpose and fulfillment.

"Here, their focus shifts...they engage with others, make friends, participate in activities, earn a living, and embrace life to the fullest," Adli added.

Since its establishment in January 2017, the project has been instrumental in providing employment opportunities primarily for individuals on the autism spectrum, emphasising their abilities over their disabilities.

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Adli's inspiration stems from the challenges he faced in securing employment for his own son, who is on the autism spectrum.

"I wanted him to live life to the fullest of his capabilities," Adli said.

Presently, the project employs four permanent staff members and seven part-timers, with plans for further expansion.

"Approximately 90 per cent of our team members are on the autism spectrum, while the remaining 10 per cent come from other disability categories," Adli noted.

The Social Welfare Department has recently released data indicating a significant increase in the registration of PwD across various categories.

As of 2022, Malaysia's population has reached 32.7 million, with approximately two per cent, or 674,548 individuals, identified as PwDs.

Among registered PwDs, physical disability is the most prevalent category, with 245,015 individuals, followed by learning disability with 236,972 persons, and visually impaired with 59,143 persons.

Speech-related disabilities have the lowest registration at 3,509 persons.

Ethnic disparities are evident in the data, with increases in registrations observed across all ethnic groups.

Registrations have risen for Malays, Chinese, Indians, and other ethnic groups.

For example, the Bumiputera community, the largest ethnic group, saw an increase from 435,543 persons in 2021 to 474,989 persons in 2022.

Similarly, the Chinese community recorded an increase from 116,023 persons in 2021 to 124,226 persons in 2022.

The Indian community also experienced a rise from 62,142 persons in 2021 to 66,994 persons in 2022, while the 'Others' category saw an increase from 7,540 persons in 2021 to 8,339 persons in 2022.

According to media reports, fewer than 12,000 of registered PWDs are currently in employment, representing less than a one per cent quota of employment.