By Effah Syafiqah (YES 2017)

From the moment I stepped out of the Dulles International Airport, my heart was beating fast. I was filled with both trepidation and excitement. I had been selected to attend a workshop called YES Alumni Training of Trainers with the theme of “Designing for Inclusion” held in Alexandria, Virginia.

The workshop was originally planned to be held in conjunction with the American Disability Act (ADA)’s 30th anniversary in 2020, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was postponed to 2022. The goal of the workshop was to empower YES alumni in being stronger advocates for the rights of people with disability aside from equipping us with skills and tools necessary to design and implement an impactful and inclusive training upon returning to our home country.

I myself am a person with multiple disabilities and it has always upset me to see the state of awareness in Malaysia about the rights of persons with disability. Generally, it is still very low and though there are a lot of campaigns carried out, it is not acknowledged or practiced by many. The discrimination towards people with disability – either at the workplace, school or daily life – still exists despite Malaysia’s status as a developing country.

By participating in this workshop, I was able to learn about the American Disability Act and obtain insights and ideas of improvements needed within Malaysia’s own Persons With Disabilities Act (also known as Akta OKU 2008). The accessibility and facilities for persons with disabilities in Malaysia is not comparable to America’s. I hope one day Malaysia will be able to achieve the same or better accessibility for people with disability. Aside from that, the workshop has strengthened my resolve to be a better advocate for people with disability.

Throughout the workshop, I learned many invaluable lessons from instructors and fellow participants. The workshop was prepared and conducted well by AFS USA volunteers, Bob and Mary-Ann.  Among my favourite sessions were Experiential Learning, Recipe for Successful Training and Identifying Problems. In the experiential learning session, we reviewed experiential learning cycle concepts which are to be applied when designing our own inclusive and effective training session. For the recipe of successful training, we learned about the components of designing an accessible and effective training. This included assessing, defining goals and objectives, evaluations and follow-up of our designed workshop. In the identifying problems and training topics session, we were asked to work in a group and discuss each of our own topics of training that we wished to execute. We were asked about the core problem we would like to address and we received feedback and suggestions from fellow group members to improve and enhance our future training sessions.

Participants standing in a straight line, discussing the cycle of experiential learning
Working together to build a miniature building using straws