ACCORDING TO THE Department of Social Welfare Malaysia, disability is listed into seven separate categories. These are hearing, visual, speech, physical, learning, mental and other/multiple disabilities.
The community of registered disabled persons made up 1.6% of Penang’s total population in 2018. Persons with physical disabilities was, by far, the biggest group of registered disabled persons, totaling up to 41.2% (11,557 persons) (Figure 1). The group with learning disabilities, with 8,376 persons registered, formed the second biggest proportion of 29.9%. The two smallest percentages (of a specific disability) belonged to those with mental disabilities (6.2%; 1,742 persons) and speech disabilities (0.4%; 102 persons) of the total.
Table 1 illustrates that Dataran Timur Laut had the highest percentage of registered disabled persons at 33.7% (9,442 persons), while Dataran Barat Daya saw the lowest percentage at 11.1% (3,112 persons). Expectedly, Dataran Timur Laut also recorded the highest numbers across all categories of disabilities except for speech disabilities, where the biggest percentage was seen in Seberang Perai Tengah (34.3%; 35 persons). This district also had the second highest percentage of disabled persons at 22.9% (6,387 persons) of the total.
In the same year, there was a registered total of 106 special needs students in the special education national schools (sekolah kebangsaan pendidikan khas) system in Penang, categorised across five types of disabilities (Figure 2). Students with learning disabilities held the highest percentage at 40.6%, where they were a total of 43 students. This is followed by students with hearing disabilities, which accounted for 34.0% (36 students) of the total. The smallest group by registration were students with other disabilities, with only one student registered in the system. Otherwise, if it is by a specific disability, students with physical disabilities had the smallest percentage at 2.8% (three students).
Figure 3 shows that out of the 43 students with learning disabilities, students diagnosed with autism held the biggest percentage at 48.8% (21 students). Students with intellectual disability and issues with slow learning came second, sustaining 9.3% respectively. However, it is noted that there are six students in the category of others – their disability was not specified. Dyslexic students accounted for the smallest percentage, at 4.7% (two students).
The Department of Social Welfare Malaysia provides financial aid to the disabled community in the country. The Penang state government also avails extra funds to the state’s disabled community. The total amount of allowance received by disabled workers in Penang was the highest in 2017 at RM21.6mil, which worked out to an average annual allowance of RM4,073 per worker (Figure 4). The highest average allowance received, however, was in 2016, where it was RM5,085 per worker. This was because the number of recipients were much lower – there was a sharp downward spike from the previous year – despite the amount of overall aid being similar. In fact, the number of recipients were on a decreasing trend from 2013 to 2016, before increasing by 1,152 persons in 2017. In contrast, the amount of aid disbursed showed more fluctuations throughout the five-year period.
Disabled persons who are not capable to work also received financial assistance from the Department of Social Welfare. The amount of aid received by Penangites had been steadily increasing from 2013, seeing a 44.4% increase from 2014 to 2015. The number of recipients were on the upward trend until 2015, where a drop was observed before the numbers rose again to record the highest number of recipients across the five-year period in 2017 (Figure 5). As with allowance for disabled workers, the lowest number of recipients in 2016 also meant that the average financial assistance was the highest that same year, where it was RM2,818 per person. In contrast, the lowest average amount of aid received was in 2013, where each person received RM1,694. It is interesting to note, however, that the average aid received by disabled persons incapable of work is lower than those who are still able to work.
Financial assistance is also offered to disabled persons who need artificial and/or assistive devices.1 The highest number of recipients for Penang was in 2013, where RM78,700 was distributed to 46 recipients (Figure 6). An average of RM1,711 was received by each person. A sharp decline in the number of recipients was seen in 2017, where there was an 87.1% decrease. On the other hand, the significant decrease of 76.3% in financial aid was observed in 2016. The highest amount of average aid received was in 2015, where each recipient obtained an average of RM2,009. In contrast, the least amount of average aid received was in 2016, amounting to RM553. It is interesting to note that the number of recipients did not decline much from the previous year, in contrast to the substantial reduction in aid.