There are an estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide, and they face many barriers to inclusion in some key aspects of society.
It is very important to create a conducive society for them, which will eliminate biased beliefs and stigma.
Disabled People’s Organization of Bhutan (DPO) is one of the first registered CSOs to enhance the rights of persons with disabilities in Bhutan. Since its establishment in 2010, so far the organization has registered more than 4,500 people with disabilities.
The Communication Officer of DPO, Dorji Phuntsho with albinism, said the organization was founded by a group of peoples with disabilities to create awareness as they are their own best spokesperson and representatives, as they know best their needs and aspirations. The organization is run by 80 percent of people with disabilities.
According to the Population Housing and Census of Bhutan, 2017, about 2.1 percent of the country’s population (8,111 females and 7,456 males), have some form of disability. The World Report 2011 published by WHO states that about 15 percent of the world’s population has some form of disability.
The organization ensures the fundamental rights, such as education and health services, and social care for all persons with disabilities, as constitutional rights, besides securing economic rights, political rights and social rights to all PwDs.
GNH development philosophy ought to include all PwDs in the national development process to make it truly inclusive. It is not only the right thing to do, but PwDs can also actively contribute to the country’s socio-economic development. Worldwide, organizations of PwDs complement government efforts to reach the unreached. In Bhutan, too, several organizations of PwDs have emerged in the last decade that have advocated for the inclusion of PwDs in all spheres of life.
The organization has carried out various activities to benefit PwDs at large. 45 individuals with disabilities were provided with short-term critical skills training this year. Dorji Phuntsho said after providing training, the organization also helps them in setting up their own business.
DPO has also provided scholarships to students with disabilities in private and government colleges. So far, 40 students with disabilities have received scholarships from DPO. They have not just provided scholarships for higher education, but they are also supporting children with disabilities starting from the primary level, said Dorji Phuntsho.
Similarly, by 2030, DPO plans to employ all people with disabilities in the country. Although, it is easier said than done, DPO will look for ways and funds to make it happen, as they target to achieve 100 percent employment to all the people with disabilities.
Apart from all the training and plans, Dorji Wangchuk shares the challenges faced by the people with disabilities. Most PwDs experience hardships, directly and indirectly, related to their disabilities. But many people with disability find that most of these hardships arise due to barriers created by people and the environment they live in, and not due to their disabilities, as such.
He shared that the employers or any non-disabled people always see their disabilities, and not the abilities of the person with disabilities. There are many cases where PwDs were not recruited instead they were demoralized and discriminated against. There are also cases where the employee is terminated after becoming disabled due to accidents.
There will be challenges to change the mindset of the society, Dorji Wangchuk said. The country does not have an accessible center for people with disabilities. Therefore, DPO plans to set up an accessible center for people with disabilities where they will provide training according to their needs and their abilities.
He said there are different kinds of disabilities, which come right from birth, some are caused by accidents, and even due to medical errors. DPO mainly focuses on persons with deafness, persons with blindness, persons with intellectual disabilities, and physical disabilities.
Another challenge is that all the CSOs are based in the capital except for Draktsho. And the majority of people with disabilities are in remote places. Some of them are bedridden and are left without opportunities. DPO helps to provide some incentives for PwDs with severe disabilities as well.