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After 35 years, unfulfilled promise of 1% civil service jobs for people with disabilities

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By 31 individuals

The human resources minister’s recent statement in Parliament on “very few cases” of workplace discrimination faced by persons with disabilities has led us to a question: why has the government not fulfilled its promise of 1% civil service jobs for people with disabilities?

This government policy target has existed since 1988: 1% of the employees in the civil service should be people with disabilities.

Now, 35 years later, this promise has not even come close to being achieved. As of September 2022, only 0.3% of the civil service are people with disabilities. Some ministries have very poor rates of only 0.1-0.2%.

Hence, we need to ask why? Why the significant failure after 35 years?

Public Services Commission data show that, for the year 2022 (data as of September 2022), of 3,777 civil service job applications by people with disabilities, only 1,008 (27%) were called for an interview.

This clearly shows the high level of rejection of people with disabilities at the applications phase, even before they have had a chance to be interviewed.

What were the reasons for all these rejections? Were they not qualified for the job? Was there discrimination? What was done to support all those rejected in getting employment? Presumably, only those who met the academic criteria applied. 

Even more dismal is the employment rate. Of the 3,777 applicants, only 71 (1.9%) were employed.

The following is noteworthy:

  • The rate of employment of those who came for an interview was 71/468 or 15%
  • Rates of employment for people with learning disabilities, people with speech or hearing disabilities and people with psychosocial disabilities were much lower than those of people with physical or visual disabilities. There could be discrimination by type of disability
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After 35 years of policy implementation failure, the time has come for an audit of the government employment process of people with disabilities. This must examine, among others, pre-employment, including vacancy announcements and recruitment, as well workplace attitudinal orientation and other reasonable accommodation in the civil service.

The design and implementation of this audit must be fully supported by the government and be led by disability rights advocates and organisations who have the necessary networks to examine the reasons for the 35-year failure and how Malaysia can advance on this matter.

The national people with disabilities action plan 2018–2022 includes the establishment of an audit access team to ensure workplace accessibility and reasonable accommodations, in alignment with the 1% civil service employment quota. However, this vital initiative remains unfulfilled.

In addition, a key performance indicator target of at least three ministries with 1% employment of people with disabilities by 2018 was set. Unfortunately, only one ministry – the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development – fulfilled this target as of 2022.

The lack of accountability and monitoring regarding the implementation of such measures poses a significant challenge. Without acknowledgement of failure and the will to pursue a comprehensive approach to policy and plan adherence and accessible workplaces, Malaysia will continue to fall short in meeting its own 1% quota of civil service jobs for people with disabilities.

Equally essential is the need to ensure the accessibility of information related to hiring processes, accommodating diverse needs such as the following:

  • Braille for blind people
  • Screen-reader accessible government websites, apps and e-government forms and other documentation that are compliant with web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) for blind people and people with other print disabilities
  • Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (Malaysian sign language) interpretation services for deaf people
  • Easy-read or plain language for people with intellectual or learning disabilities or cognitive impairments
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Neglecting to provide information in formats that diverse disability groups can access constitutes discrimination at the very outset of the selection process.

With 16% of the population having a disability, it is unwise to ignore this potential workforce. We hope the government will take concerted action to fulfil a long-standing promise made to people with disabilities.


  1. Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS, person with dyslexia; child-disability activist; adviser, National Early Childhood Intervention Council; adviser, National Family Support Group for Children and People with Special Needs; member, The OKU Rights Matter Project
  2. Dr Shyielathy Arumugam, adviser, National Family Support Group of Children and People with Special Needs; inclusive education advocate; parent advocate
  3. San Yuenwah, person with invisible disabilities; member, The OKU Rights Matter Project; member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group
  4. Beatrice Leong, autistic adult; founder of Autism Inclusiveness Direct Action Group (Aida
  5. Yana Karim, co-founder, Boleh Space
  6. Srividhya Ganapathy, person with ADHD; co-chairperson, Crib Foundation
  7. Dr Naziaty Mohd Yaacob, polio survivor and person with multiple disabilities; accessibility and mobility adviser-cum-trainer; former member, Majlis Kebangsaan Orang Kurang Upaya (People with Disabilities National Council), 2008-2012; former associate professor of architecture, University of Malaya
  8. Yap Sook Yee, parent to a child with disability; child disability advocate
  9. Dr Anthony Chong, deaf, co-founder and secretary of Deaf Advocacy and Well-Being National Organisation, Malaysia (Dawn
  10. Anit Kaur Randhawa, parent advocate; member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group; member, The OKU Rights Matter Project
  11. AI-Na Khor, founder and CEO of Asia Community Service; advocate and friend to people with intellectual disabilities
  12. Ch’ng B’ao Zhong, autistic adult; licensed and registered counsellor
  13. Meera Samanther, executive committee member and former president, Association of Women Lawyers; former president, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO); member, Harapan OKU Law Reform Group; parent advocate; disability and gender activist
  14. Elijah Irwin, officer, Malaysian Foundation for The Blind
  15. Murugeswaran Veerasamy, president, Damai Disabled Person Association Malaysia
  16. Vicky Chan, deaf-blind advocate
  17. Albert Wong Tuong Chui, chair, Sarawak Society for the Deaf
  18. Sharifah Tahir, dementia care partner; advocate, Founder of UniquelyMeInitiatives (UMI)
  19. Bathmavathi Krishnan, president, Association of Women with Disabilities Malaysia
  20. Ng Lai-Thin, care partner and project lead, National Early Childhood Intervention Council; member, The OKU Rights Matter Project
  21. Kaveinththran, disabled human rights activist
  22. Boleh Space
  23. Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar, spokesperson, Siuman
  24. Annie Ong Hwei Ling, deaf; president, National Organisation of Malaysian Sign Language Instructors (NowBIM)
  25. Mary Chen, chair, Challenges Foundation
  26. Rangkaian Solidariti Demokratik Pesakit Mental (Siuman
  27. Maizan Mohd Salleh, founder and president; Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Albinism Association
  28. Mimie Rahman, person with ADHD; managing director and licensed counsellor, Mindakami
  29. Moses Choo Siew Cheong, blind person; former member (2016-2021), Majlis Kebangsaan Orang Kurang Upaya (People with Disabilities National Council); independent ICT consultant for blind people and people with low vision
  30. Dr Daniel Leong Han Ming, autistic adult
  31. Alvin Teoh, parent advocate; coordinator, National Family Support Group for Children and People with Special Needs
The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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