Happy International Disabilities Day

Today is International Disabilities Day. Our people with disabilities, especially the youth, received the perfect gift –a special audience with His Majesty the King who also presented them with individual tashi khadars, and a three-storied cake to enjoy during their celebrations.

I gate crashed the celebrations. More than a hundred people with disabilities had gathered at the RBP mess to commemorate this important day and to enjoy His Majesty’s special soelra. The students with disabilities put on quite a show, from “singing” our national anthem in sign language to performing traditional songs and dances.

The festivities reminded me of the significant contributions that our people with disabilities have made in a wide range of fields including healthcare (Sanga Dorji, physiotherapist; pictured here), teaching (too many to name), music (Lop Kezang, Duptho and others) and IT (Chencho, Kuensel’s webmaster). All of them have served the tsa-wa-sum well.

But the festivities also reminded me of how little we have done to address the special needs of persons with disabilities. The school for the visually challenged (in Khaling) has finally started improving, but we still don’t have a school dedicated to teaching students with speaking and hearing impairments (currently they study in Drugyal H.S). And, notwithstanding the good work of the Draktsho Vocational Training Center, people with physical or mental challenges don’t have enough opportunities for growth. Our public infrastructure and facilities have virtually no provisions for persons with disabilities, making it difficult for them to live and travel independently.

We have a lot to do if we are serious about improving the lives of people with disabilities. To begin with, the government should ensure that sufficient legislative and policy support is made available for people with disabilities so that they have equal access to the opportunities that other Bhutanese enjoy.

And one more thing, from next year, the government should partake in the International Disabilities Day celebrations. This would be a welcome show of support to our people with disabilities.

Meanwhile…Happy International Disabilities Day!


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