By ALICE ZHAO
HONG KONG – Chong Shuk Kam knows every cheap meal in various restaurants in Wong Tai Sin, probably the Kowloon area. With her electrical wheel chair, she is able to move around, making her comparison.
She has to make every cent count because she has no job. “I hope I could work so I could make enough money to rely on myself,” said Chong. Every month, she receives HK$3680 from the government. The amount is all her income, covering her basic life including transportation.
Her right lower leg was amputated when she was 8, the then best solution for her neurofibromatosis, tumors compressing nerves and other tissues like pounds of stones tied to a thin rope that is about to flop.
Chong is just one of the many disabled who could not have a job. There has been about 344,000 disabled people in Hong Kong according to a paper released by the government ten years ago. Some enjoy employment while some do not. According to the Labour mobility report released by the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong, 11% of the economically inactive population were left work because of health problems.
In the mid 1990’s, Hong Kong Disability Discrimination Ordinance was enacted by the Equal Opportunities Commission. The law gives disabled people protection against discrimination from employment including partnerships, trade union memberships, vocational training.
Despite of the legislation, disabled people cannot be fully integrated to the labor market, said Tsang Ka-yin, a social worker in the Hong Kong Federation of Handicapped Youth. Employers often consider extra expenses like administration, barrier-free infrastructure and other factors. As a result, disabled candidates are often turned down, Tsang said.
“There are still misunderstandings toward the disabled. There are many that they are capable of,” said Mak Hui Wah, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of the Deaf and assistant professor of applied social studies in City University of Hong Kong. He believes Hong Kong should adopt quota system, to constrain employers with certain numbers of disabled members in the future.
To Chong, a job is not all about wages, but also a way to be connected with the society. Now she serves s as a volunteer at the Hong Kong Federation of Handicapped Youth. Every Thursday, she goes to the Lung Cheung Government Secondary School to teach music.
“I think I am able to work as a clerk in an office or a tutor for elementary kids…”Chong said, “but it is just seems so hard.”