“Since joining the transition programme in 2017, Renee has discovered more about how to communicate effectively and manage her feelings.
A recent informative talk at Taarana School about the future of differently-abled children encouraged parents of our students that their children can be active, contributing members of society in adulthood.
The ‘Possibilities for Persons with Learning Disabilities’ talk, presented by disability services and support organisation United Voice (UV), showed UV’s programmes and training for People with Learning Disabilities (PLDs).
“We believe employment plays a big part in helping recognise PLDs as individuals who can contribute to society. Therefore, UV actively provides training and seeks employment for our members to empower them to be self-independent,” UV lead coordinator Yeong Moh Foong (below, left) said in her presentation.
Established in 2005, UV has advocated reducing the isolation of PLDs and giving them the tools and experience to work, socialise, and take control of their lives to contribute to society.
The organisation conducts self-advocacy training, awareness programmes, workshops, and conferences for members, other self-advocacy groups, and community rehabilitation centres. In addition, the platform helps parents understand the importance of self-advocacy for the differently-abled.
UV also manages various social enterprises where employees produce greeting cards, bookmarks, T-shirts, weaving products, business cards, and baked goods alongside a gift shop and an art gallery.
“We are proud of our job coach services for PLDs, employers, and co-workers to ensure sustainable employment. The associated transition programme teaches members how to understand themselves, understand the perspectives of others, and relate to people,” she explained.
Yeong shared the experience of a member who could not find employment. His parents decided to help him set up a convenience stall in a food court.
“Thanks to his many UV training sessions, his little enterprise gave him the exposure others would get through employment.
“He is more sociable, open to talking to others, and has regular customers who know how to interact with him. He can only do better knowing that this is his business and that he can run it more independently in the future.
“We set out to help individuals train to be active members of society. Of course, they will make mistakes as they learn, but we are there to guide them, so they gain confidence. So, naturally, the process takes time.
UV boasts a success rate of getting about 70% of its members employed. In addition, more than 40 members are actively engaged in various sectors through its transition programme. They include jobs as sales assistants, administration clerks, bakery assistants, receptionists, and human resources executives.
“Members receive a monthly allowance, an annual bonus, Employee Provident Fund (EPF), and social security contributions. They also receive RM450 a month from the Welfare Department,” Yeong added.
A Bright Model of Independence and Self-advocacy
UV’s public relations officer and office assistant Renee Chan (below) exemplifies the organisation’s successful self-advocacy programmes.
The spritely youngster, who lives with Williams Syndrome, took the floor to relate her experience with UV.
“I am sure you are familiar with Down Syndrome. Well, those with Williams Syndrome, like me, have one less chromosome. Most of us have highly social personalities and an affinity for music,” she said.
Renee’s schooling life was expectedly complicated. She was placed in a special needs class in secondary school, could not focus on her studies, got easily distracted, and experienced bullying. “I did not dare to tell my teachers because I did not know if they would believe me. As a result, I did not enjoy school.”
After completing her secondary education, Renee enrolled in a care centre to learn life skills such as house chores and cooking. “I then joined the Yayasan Nanyang foundation and took singing and piano lessons before joining UV.”
Since joining the transition programme in 2017, Renee has discovered more about how to communicate effectively and manage her feelings.
“I now talk to visitors about United Voice, give awareness training, and assist in any administration work in the office like answering calls, filing, and processing membership payments.
“It is a place where I can be myself and find true friends that accept me as I am. I am also stronger emotionally and want to be the voice for other persons with learning disabilities.
A parent who attended the talk commended Taarana for organising the presentation. “It has opened my eyes to many future opportunities and options for my son.
“Every parent of a differently-abled child often wonders what the future holds for them. It means the world to them and us parents that they can make choices independently and choose the outcomes of their lives.”