Picture: A Wood ramp

Need for better understanding and infrastructure for the disabled

People generally tend to overlook the challenges a person with disability can have. What one must understand is that a person is not born with a choice to decide whether he wants the disability or not.  Instead of labeling someone by their challenges, it’s important to first see them as an individual.

‘A person with disability’ is a preferred term rather than the term ‘Handicapped people’ where the first attention is given to a person’s challenges. Usage of terms like these have a lot of impact on them but the sole reason for using such terms can be due to lack of awareness and advocacy.

Local terms used in Bhutanese language to address people with disability are also not very pleasant.  Also, terms like ‘mental retardation’ are  popularly used in some universities and other institutions around the globe even though it’s an inappropriate term, a preferred term would rather be ‘’an intellectual disability’’ because it’s an inclusive term which avoids discrimination.

Across some places of Bhutan, people tend to name their children with disability based on their particular challenges.

According to the executive director of Ability Bhutan Society, Ugyen Wangchuk, he says that people generally perceives only 3 perspectives to understand disability

First people who are diagnosed with  slight defect in their body part including their intellectual skill; are unable to do what they want to do.

Secondly,  this identified challenge restricts them from participating in activities of mainstream society.

Thirdly restriction leads to a barrier between them and the society ending up in feeling isolated.

Therefore, disability is a cross sectoral approach and only handful of individuals can’t make a difference. So henceforth mass support from their families, the government, media houses, social workers, NGO’s and other organizations are required.

ABS visited all gewogs in 3 dzongkhags namely Pemagatshel, Mongar and Bumthang, places which were not covered by other NGO’s.  Visiting physically to places like this and meeting all the local leaders can also make a lot of differences in creating awareness on the use of terminologies, basic requirements of infrastructures and many other required support services.

According to KAP study report- idea of disability is confined only to the educated lot. Practices and findings of 2011 states that 21.4% of children aged between 2-9 years are children with disability and 2017 report states that 2.3 % of the total population has moderate to severe disability which means 15,000 people of the total population and even though its less for other countries, for a small country like Bhutan with very less population, it’s quite huge.

Henceforth, GNHC has taken ownership from the government and has drafted national policy for person with disability and it’s yet to be passed.

Even though a lot of new buildings are coming up, not having a lift is also an issue, people with disability usually face although the concerned agency should also look into the need of other special infrastructures like public washroom and ramp for them.

Mr. Ugyen Wangchuk said that ‘’Few organizations cannot make a difference in lobbying to build accessible infrastructures and waiting for policy could also take so long. Hundreds of buildings are coming up but most of them seem inaccessible although our government is trying. It may not make sense to rebuild what’s already been built to make it accessible because it can become costly. The only thing that can be done is impose these ideas on new infrastructures before iis being built. Even in schools, there are plans to build accessible toilet so it’s quite encouraging and heartwarming for us to know that public places are made accessible’’.

Ministry of Works and Human Settlement also has a guideline called ‘differently-abled construction’ to make accessibility for people with disability and as far as we are concerned, the decision makers have made an inclusive.

Recently, 2 wheelchair accessible vans were also donated by SEISA Group, Japan to Bhutan Paralympic committee.

About Karma Chuki Namgyel

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