Unregistered PwD confront healthcare access barriers, community stigma - Expert

Key findings from Malaysia's latest data

30 Mar 2024 08:01am
Photo for illustration purpose only. - FILE PIX by Sinar
Photo for illustration purpose only. - FILE PIX by Sinar

SHAH ALAM - The Social Welfare Department has recently released data indicating a significant increase in the registration of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) across various categories.

As per the latest figures, Malaysia's population in 2022 reached 32.7 million, with an estimated two per cent, or 674,548 individuals, registered as PwD.

Physical disability emerged as the most prevalent category among registered PwD, with 245,015 individuals, followed by learning disability with 236,972 persons, and visually impaired with 59,143 persons.

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

These statistics spotlighted the diverse range of disabilities within the Malaysian population and stressed the importance of addressing their unique needs.

In response to the increase, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Public Health Medicine Specialist Professor Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh highlighted several factors contributing to the rise in registrations.

"The year-on-year increment could be attributed to enhanced screening processes, improved support systems for disabled individuals, and increased awareness regarding the benefits of registering as a PwD," she told Sinar Daily.

However, Sharifa acknowledged the presence of unregistered PwD, attributing it to challenges in accessing medical care and concerns about social stigma within communities.

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"This may be due to difficulties accessing medical care and securing appointments with healthcare professionals.

"The complex nature of some disabilities often necessitates specialist consultations and follow-ups, which can be daunting and time-consuming," she said.

Sharifa further noted that reluctance to declare disability status may stem from fear of societal stigma and discrimination, particularly within familial and community settings.

"Physical disability is the most prevalent form of disability, and individuals may hesitate to self-identify due to concerns about employment opportunities and societal perceptions," she said.

Echoing similar sentiments, Consultant Public Health Specialist Professor Dr Hematram Yadav stressed the importance of actively identifying and registering all types of disabilities.

"There is a lack of awareness regarding the registration of PwD.

"Efforts should be made to actively identify and register individuals with various disabilities, including learning disabilities, visual impairments, and speech impairments," he stressed.

The data also revealed disparities among ethnic groups, with increases in registrations observed across the board.

Malays, Chinese, Indians, and other ethnic groups all experienced rises in registration numbers from 2021 to 2022.

For instance, 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.