Embracing people with disabilities into the mainstay

People with disabilities shared their own experienced while visiting public places to avail services

Sonam Penjor

As the country strives to become an inclusive society, there is a growing need to educate and advocate on inclusive community that encompasses a holistic approach.

The Royal Thimphu College (RTC) undertook a research titled, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Global Challenge Research Fund Project: “Understanding, Developing, and Supporting Meaningful Work for Youth with Disabilities in Bhutan: Networks, Communities, and Transitions” in partnership with University of Birmingham, England and University of Minnesota, USA.

The project has now progressed into phase-II whereby it aims to provide interventions through micro financing, modelling coordinators’ role, and training on inclusive employment opportunities and social participation.

As part of the project, RTC in collaboration with various disabled people’s organization (DPOs) and relevant stakeholders conducted an “Advocacy Workshop on Inclusive Employment Opportunities and Social Participation for People with Disabilities” from 12 – 15 March at the RTC campus.

The press release from RTC states: “We aim to address many issues related to people with disabilities including young adults and youths including caregivers/parents and develop coordination towards better synchronization of our efforts to the same cause.”

Project coordinator for ESRC, Sonam Tshewang, said that as a society that embraced modernity late we have always remained in the cocoons of our culture and tradition.

He said athough it has social and culture reservation towards disabilities, it also accommodates and accepts inclusivity, guided by our culture and religious ethos. As a compassionate society, our community has always shown great concern and care for the need of members with disabilities.

“Yet we have made not much progress in terms of their need according to time change. Today we still have many challenges starting from schooling education to employment, empowerment to self-independence of people with disabilities,” he said, adding our infrastructures are not disabled friendly and we have not introduced any customized employment practices for differently abled members of the community.”

As per NSB record of 2018, there are 15,567 persons with disabilities in the country, of which 8,111 are female and 7,456 males. However, this is based on the census definition that a person with disability is if any one domain of seeing, hearing, walking, cognition, self-care, and communication is coded ‘Lot of Difficulty’ or ‘Cannot do at all’.

However, one can assume that we all are differently abled in one or other ways. By application of the scientific approaches and medical terminology, we often ought to find that we carry some form of disability. It is matters only with recognition and acceptance that we are all different from each other.

Physiotherapy Specialist at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, Dr Sanga Dorji, said that blind people challenge is not for deaf people or wheel chair users and vice-versa.

Therefore, he said until and unless we are very inclusive and think holistically, we don’t face much challenge. For instance, for blind persons being in a new place is a big challenge, however, once we are used to it it is not a big challenge for them.

Meanwhile, people with disabilities shared their own experienced while visiting public places to avail services.

 Some of the stakeholders who attended the workshops committed to put in the agenda once they are back in the respective offices. For financial institutions (FIs) they committed to set up designated counters like that of priority counters for senior citizens.

Currently, the country doesn’t have designated parking for such groups of people. Therefore, FIs committed to allocate designated parking for them.

Similarly, representative from Druk Green Power Corporation presented that till now in the human resource strategy, it doesn’t mention any policies about PWD.

“We are in the right time as we are in the process of revision of policy and planning. We will also try to convince the management and include provisions for persons with disabilities and will try to incorporate equal employment opportunities to all,” DGPC officials said.