Malaysia has some room for improvement in terms of supporting people with disabilities (“PWD”). To date, Malaysia does not require mandatory registration of PWD, and this has resulted in limited data on the prevalence of disabilities in Malaysia.
According to the Department of Social Welfare, Malaysia which manages the Persons with Disabilities registry (updated as of 31 May 2021), there are a total of 579,150 persons with disabilities, which is about 1.8% of the Malaysian population.
The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019 report provides a more accurate estimation of PWD in Malaysia; a total of 11.1% Malaysians above 18 years old have disabilities.
In addition, as of 2018, workforce participation among PWD is still low in both the public and private sectors, with approximately 4,500 workers, which is barely 1% of the number of registered PWD.
In view of this, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia ("HWUM" or the "University") signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Diveheart Malaysia ("Diveheart") at the University’s Putrajaya campus yesterday (1 March 2023).
The MoU formalises the parties' collaboration in providing opportunities for young Malaysians to develop their leadership skills, entrepreneurial skills, soft skills, including critical and creative thinking, as well as their sense of social responsibility while inculcating the value of teamwork in supporting people with disabilities.
Some of the joint activities that are planned include awareness campaigns, workshops, and mentoring sessions.
Most importantly, the MoU signals their intention to work together to foster resilience among young people, by inculcating a sense of volunteerism through a crowdfunding campaign to cater to people with disabilities.
The crowdfunding campaign (https://www.simplygiving.com/company/hw-my) with HWUM students aims to raise funds with the objective of upskilling people with disabilities through Diveheart’s diving training programme, which is estimated to cost RM5,000 per person.
The MoU signatories were HWUM Provost and Chief Executive Officer Professor Mushtak Al-Atabi and Diveheart Director and Ambassador Tuan Syed Abd Rahman Syed Hassan.
Also present as witness signatories were HWUM Chief Operating Officer and Registrar Janice Yew and Diveheart Appointed Medical Advisor Professor Dr Nazirah Hasnan, who is also a Director of University Malaysia Medical Centre.
Also in attendance to witness the signing ceremony were Dato’ Musa Yusof (Deputy Director General of Tourism Malaysia), Dato’ Adissadikin Ali (Managing Director of RHB Islamic Bank), Lt Kol Dato’ Nurzarina Sepran (Advisor of Volunteers Association of Malaysia), and Dr Basri Husin (Research Assistant at Universiti Malaya).
Heriot-Watt University Malaysia Provost and Chief Executive Officer Professor Mushtak Al-Atabi said: "This partnership is a significant step towards creating a more inclusive and sustainable social capital ecosystem. At HWUM, our role goes beyond equipping our students with skills to remain resilient, but also to nurture them into responsible, purpose-driven leaders who will make the world a better place for all."
“We wish to thank Diveheart for this partnership to give our students the opportunity to serve the community and to introduce diving as a key enabler to empower PWD, in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and Heriot-Watt University’s ethos of inclusion for all."
Diveheart Director and Ambassador Tuan Syed Abd Rahman Syed Hassan said: "The initiative emphasises the importance of including students and the PWD community in various initiatives with ocean-themed activities like water therapy with scuba diving to experience zero gravity and marine-related education, research, and outreach.”
"It also focuses on Heriot-Watt University and Diveheart's ongoing emphasis on fostering empathy and inclusiveness in all Malaysians," he added.
HWUM student Suraindran Mani Maran said: "The Diveheart trip was an eye-opening and very humbling experience. At the core of this NGO lie very compassionate values. The trip enabled me to better understand the perspective of people with disabilities. I feel more aware of the things that I take for granted without even knowing it. I’d say that no one is better than the other, just because of physical differences. Everyone is capable of doing anything they want.”
The Diveheart crowdfunding campaign is now open to members of the public and will end on 30 April 2023.