'Give us the opportunity to study or work'

People with mild intellectual disabilities want government to do more to help them contribute

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 5:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 5:00am

Ho Man-keung enjoys computer programming and keenly follows the news, showing a special interest in politics. He is studying hard on a training programme. But, unlike most students in Hong Kong, Ho faces a future of dependence on his family and toiling for HK$21 per day in a workshop.

Ho says government policies for people who, like him, have mild intellectual disabilities are a disgrace. He wants Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to offer solutions in his policy address next month and is prepared to protest.

"We are robbed of the chance to have further education - all the programmes for those with intellectual disabilities are not accredited so it's hard for us to find jobs," Ho said.

A person with a mild intellectual disability can typically take care of their personal needs but has an IQ below 75 and a below-average intellectual capacity.

Fellow student Victor Lee Yu-lung shares Ho's frustrations.

Lee, 20, won two gold medals in table tennis at the 2008 Special Olympics. But rather than pursuing his preferred careers in sport or music, Lee has a part-time job delivering take-out food as he completes his final year of school. "Everyone should have dreams, and also an equal opportunity to pursue them," he said.

With no recognised courses available, one of the few options in the job market is to join the government's sheltered workshops, doing simple tasks for an "encouragement award" of just HK$21 per day - with deductions for lunch and air-conditioning.

"Sheltered workshops are the worst," Lee said. "There is no pay … but you must queue to get in."

Ho urged the government to offer proper wages in workshops and diplomas in useful subjects.

Lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung suggested a quota system, where big employers had to have employees with mental disabilities or buy services from sheltered workshops.