Economic Empowerment Programme

Economic Empowerment Programme (EEP)

“ECONOMIC   EMPOWERMENT   PROGRAMME” or EEP is a relatively new terminology used in Malaysia though the initiation of the concept has been practised for more than two decades. Both Government and Non-Government organisations have initiated and managed   programmes on activities that generate income both through organisations as well as for individual Persons with Disabilities (PWD).  However, the intent more often than not, has been for therapeutic purposes that coincidentally were paid. Here, many seem to have taken advantage of the situation and paid out insignificantly for work done. Often such work is not wanted by the community, so much so that sheltered workshops and homes almost become centres of slavery if not for the therapy that it entails. Because it provides “filling in time” organisers and centres of such activities continue the routine and PWD remain earning RM2.00 to RM5.00 a day, hardly covering cost of transport and meals. These are often provided by parents, guardians, care-givers or the workshop or home through government funding and donations.

The concept of EEP encompasses a conscious effort of planning, implementing and monitoring a structured training programme to deliver knowledge and skills as well as instilling positive attitude to PWD so that they can be gainfully employed. The latter may start with sheltered workshops and homes but ought to evolve into open market employment. EEP is also to enable PWD to be financially independent thus freeing them from being dependent upon the Government, family and the community at large. Biwako Millennium Framework (BMF) for Action towards an Inclusive, Barrier-free and Rights-based Society for PWD in Asia and the Pacific clearly outlines this in section (4) Training and employment, including self-employment.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of PWD (CRPD) in May 2008 and Malaysia’s signature as ratification is a confirmation of commitment to do away with an approach to provide special facilities just for PWD to an inclusive one that opens doors to training and employment in the open labour market alongside the general population. The wide spectrum of PWD including People with intellectual disabilities is entitled to gain from the provisions of CRPD. To date they seldom can benefit from efforts towards inclusion because they are often deprived of education, be it academic or vocational.  International experiences show that with appropriate training, support in acquiring skills in the workplace, and the right opportunities, they can become valued employees.

A sub-regional conference organised by International Labour Organisation (ILO) and funded by the Government of Ireland, titled ‘People With Intellectual Disabilities: Opening Pathways To Training And Employment In The African Region’ addressed the question of how training and employment opportunities can be effectively opened up for persons with intellectual disabilities, through action by government, employers, trade unions and  civil society. Participants discussed achievements and   shortcomings of policies, laws, programmes, services and testimonials were given by PWD experienced in attempting access to education, training and employment and described what work meant to them.  Ideas were explored on how to improve their quality of life at all levels of society to increase participation in their communities. The Lusaka Declaration reflects their recommendations in full.  The background paper, ‘Promoting Training and Employment Opportunities for People with Intellectual Disabilities, International Experience’ was prepared by Professor Trevor Parmenter, from the Centre for Disability Studies, University of Sydney, Australia.

Economic Empowerment Programe in Malaysia

In Malaysia, I first heard of EEP in practice from YBhg. Datin Paduka Khatijah Sulieman, a renowned philanthropist, who devotes her life and works full time towards giving a better quality of life to PWD.  Kathy, as she is affectionately known, is President of Rumah Amal Cheshire Selangor (RACS), a home for PWD which opened in 1963.  Inspired by EEP happening in other parts of the world and encouraged by Leonard Cheshire Disability, London, she planned and executed her first training for persons with learning disabilities, in information and communication technology (ICT), Bakery, Handicraft, Hospitality, and Horticulture, in 2007.  She accepted teething problems encountered as challenges, requested and facilitated a management audit and upon recommendations, improved upon the structure, delivery and monitoring of the programme.

The ultimate aim of EEP is thus not just to ensure PWD get jobs.  It must ensure their sustainability in open market, productivity and efficiency that allows them an upward career mobility that will lead to economic and social independence, towards inclusion into the community.  

As in implementation of any programme, it starts with a well thought of plans.  It is the one husband and four wives concept of how, why, what, who and when and an additional where.  A structured training programme is a must, with well thought off topics, modules, content, delivery method, appropriate equipment and tools. For persons with intellectual disabilities, teaching aids such as augmentative and alternative communications systems is a must to ensure optimal literacy, competency and compliance.  Once the type of training, the teachers and the tools has been identified, the trainees can be selected. The purpose of selection is not to reject applicants but to identify those who qualify the assessment including that of  cognitive, functional e.g. using International Classification Of Functioning Disability and Health (ICF) and psychosocial. Best practise calls for a multi-disciplinary  team of nurse practitioner, an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist, a clinical psychologist,  a counsellor, special education teacher and if available a Rehabilitation Physician to do the comprehensive assessment.

Teaching PWD new knowledge and skills calls for the use of teaching and learning tools including state-of-the-art technology that has proven its worth world-wide. Alternative and   Augmentative  communications allows teachers, trainers and care-givers to reach understanding of persons with intellectual, communication and physical disabilities through graphics, pictures and symbols.  There exists at least 11,000 international nomenclature symbols in the software Boardmaker, combinations and permutations of which provides limitless access to communication and literacy.  Adaptation to local culture can be easily done and it promotes user creativity. A special text to speech software in Bahasa Melayu has been developed by a team from Disability Solutions (M) Sdn Berhad with Mohd Fakhri Abu Bakar at the helm. This can further facilitate communication and learning for learner PWD without speech.  The range of peripherals in its application is extensive and can suit needs from a non-technology base to the most sophisticated ones such as being used by Stephen Hawking.  

It is good for the organisation embarking upon a new EEP to consider what facilities are available, the ease of getting the right trainers and most important, the type of job opportunities in the surrounding community.  It is also commendable to provide training in areas not just most needed in the vicinity but not catered for by any in a particular area.  This ensures PWD can be easily employed once they are trained.  Currently, many Community Rehabilitation Centres and almost all the NGOs seem to be involved in training PWD in similar industry such as bakery, laundry, handicraft, etc.  In such a situation, unless the product is outstanding and can capture higher paying customers, the target of financial independence is not visible.   

A job coach is critical in ensuring sustainability for PWD working especially in the open market. Regular monitoring alongside close relationship with employers and colleagues will enable early intervention of problems faced by both the PWD and the employers in the workplace. The PWD must be comfortable with the environment, happy to be employed and able to build a healthy relationship with supervisors, employers and co-workers. PWD are taught how to be independently mobile by using public transport and encouraged to live in group homes.  RACS has shown a good example of the full support given to their graduates not just through their job coach, through the formation of their advocacy club ‘The Young Voices’, basic group home needs  and parental support groups. All the while, graduates are guided through their job needs and their social skills.

The job coach faces challenges all through towards ensuring a successful job placement and sustainability. One of the most difficult challenges faced by the job coach is to give personal attention according to individual needs in relation to cognitive ability, changes in environmental factors, and reaction to changes which can be extremely dynamic. The job coach has to give confidence to an employer who has not had any experience with PWD.  Willing employers may not be close to where the PWD lives, raising multiple problems of time, transport and safety.  Sometimes parents themselves are not supportive and choose to be picky about job offers.  Intervention in the workplace is normally due to reluctance of other workers to accept PWD as equal to them.

Employers also experienced with PWD cannot absorb more than a certain number at any one time.

Economic Empowerment Programme Assessment (EEPA)

The reason for EEPA

The high failure rate, beginning with even at job interviews and in employment itself, coupled with the inability of PWD to be in sustainable employment has led to very high unemployment among PWD. Employers are “wary” of giving employment opportunities to PWD. Even if PWD get through the job interview, more often than not the employers find it difficult to cope with their ‘inefficiency’ and ‘disability’ considering the demand of the job. In response to this, EEPA was developed with the expressed intention of making available a means of assessment to benefit both the PWD and the potential employers.

Development of EEPA

EEPA was developed based on studies, research and practices of many experts amongst academic and special education practitioners both in the country as well as at international level. It evolved from various informal and semi-formal assessments used at both government and non-government training centres. The input for EEPA development was obtained from staff and professionals from 137 organisations comprising government agencies, NGOs, and community-based centres through a series of workshops and trials Malaysia-wide. This manual must be fully understood before using EEPA. It must be the first reference point every time assessment is done.


This manual contains instructions on how to use the EEPA form. EEPA is an instrument to assess PWD readiness and inclination for work, and their attitude towards work.

Who Can Use

  1. Assessors appointed by authorities in Government or Non-Government Organisations, or individuals who want to know the trend of performance of PWD under their care and supervision.
  2. Those responsible to provide training for PWD and/or their placement in employment.

For Whom

EEPA is to be filled in and applied for PWD who have reached 12 years and above, yet found to be slow learners. They do not have the potential to excel in academics or technical professions and may need alternative methods of communications and the skills for employment.


For assessment: filled in on a scheduled and periodic basis, the findings for each item will allow the trainer and/or work supervisor to be more aware of the aspirations, wants, abilities and capabilities of the person being assessed.

For Training, EEPA is also suitable for use as a basis for development of training modules.


A schedule is prepared for each PWD under supervision and care. The time, day and date of assessment is fixed on a regular basis for each given task (after it is taught, learnt and practised).


A place identified on the premises where the PWD is, e.g. at the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR)/work area/work station. Any change in venue must be accompanied by reasons as it may result in different findings. It should also be recorded.


  1. To start
    1. Assessment for all the three sections must be done during the period of observation (once or as many times as necessary).
    2. When the assessor is doing the full EEPA, Section 1 must be completed before Section 2. Likewise, Section 2 must be completed before Section 3.
    3. Do not change the findings which differ after doing the later section. Just note and use it in the next assessment.
    4. If all levels of a particular item is found not to be relevant, it should just be noted as “not applicable”.
  2. EEPA consists of three Sections:-
    1. Section 1: Work Preference
      Identifies what PWD likes and/or chooses to do.
    2. Section 2: Ability to Work
      Identifies the physical strength, mental power and/or skill PWD has.
    3. Section 3: Capability of Work
      Identifies the skill to produce and the ability to do a variety of tasks, taking into account the attribute and attitude of the PWD.
  3. For every person assessed, the assessor has to fill in all three Sections according to the items   appropriate to the person’s ability and level of development. All forms are preceded by the PWD profile. PWD identified for assessment must:-
    1. Be registered in the organisation of the assessor.
    2. Be more than 12 years old.
    3. Have not gone to school, left school or are still in school but in a special class.
    4. Be available in assessor’s organisation centre continually, at least twice a week.
    5. Have the consent of parents or guardian to take part in activities that can generate income.


EEPA: Manual
EEPA: Seksyen 1
EEPA: Seksyen 2
EEPA: Seksyen 3