|SPECIAL PEOPLE, SIMPLE NEEDS: Ugyen Wangdi, a hearing impaired student of Drugyel LSS spells it out.
International Disability Day 4 December, 2009 – In response to a question on what is the most important help he needed from the government, Ugyen Wangdi, a hearing impaired student of Drugyel lower secondary school wrote: “Books, pencil, paper, pen,” on a small green-board, pinned with a banner that read ‘Communicate through Reading and Writing’.
Ugyen Wangdi was part of an exhibition held yesterday to showcase the abilities of the mentally and physically challenged, as Bhutan observed International Day for Persons with Disabilities with the theme: Realising the millennium development goals for all.
The exhibition, held in the courtyard of the Druk Tashi Taj hotel, the only venue in the capital city with basic accessibility for the physically challenged, also had on display knitted weaves, woodcarvings, embroidery, artwork and a host of other items made by people with special needs.
“I want to draw your attention to the word DISABILITY,” said the UNICEF representative, Dr Gepke Hingst, speaking to the gathering of people with special needs, parliamentarians, representatives of the international community, NGOs and business leaders.
“Is it the right word? Or is it more appropriate to focus on what a person with disability can do? Look at the display outside and allow me to share with you an edible proof of their abilities,” said Dr Hingst, as she distributed cookies made by the Big Bakery in Kawanjangsa, Thimphu, to the official guests invited for the day.
“If persons and children with special needs, their parents and their communities are to be empowered, people with special needs have to play an active role in shouldering responsibilities,” said Dr Sanga Dorji, physiotherapist with the JDWNR hospital and one of the organisers of the event. “On the other hand, the communities, including policy makers and implementers, need to provide opportunities through an accessible environment and inclusive policies and programmes.”
|LOOK MA. NO WORDS! Two hearing-impaired Drukgyel HSS students demonstrate sign language
Speaking on the government’s efforts to empower people with special needs, Dr Sanga Dorji said that His Royal Highness the Paro Penlop established in 1973 the School for the Blind in Khaling, Trashigang. Today, many visually impaired persons were serving the government in various capacities. A school for the hearing impaired was set up six years ago in Paro and 15 of its students were at the function in Thimphu. They also performed a musical concert in the evening at the Nazhoen Pelri complex.
The Changangkha school and the Draktsho vocational training centres in Thimphu also catered to children with special needs and helped to bring out their skills and talents, said Dr Sanga. “During last year’s celebration, His Majesty gave us the opportunity to visit the palace and offer thredar and also sent us a huge cake.”
Sangay Choden, a teacher at Changangkha lower secondary school and a parent of a child with special needs, said that, from her observation, the inclusive education strategy to promote equal opportunity for learning was posing serious challenges in case of children with severe disabilities. “If those children are admitted in the inclusive school in the name of no discrimination, there’s no positive learning,” said Sangay Choden. “Instead, the child develops fear and hatred towards the school and worry, tension and fear overshadows the mind of the parent.”
This was because teachers did not have the training to handle such children, particularly the severely autistic. “I appeal to the government to come with a pilot project, so that this section of children could be enrolled to develop basic life skills to live an independent life,” said Sangay Choden. “It’ll bring light and happiness to those parents and children.”
The event was sponsored by the youth development fund and UNICEF.
By Phuntsho Wangdi