Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

With the inauguration of inclusive facilities yesterday, the Professional Development Centre (PDC) in Tsirang is the first training centre that is Persons with Disabilities-friendly (PwD) in the country.

The main building, training hall, computer lab, dining room, and three-room dedicated hostel of the centre are now equipped with ramps with handrails, wide wheel-chair accessible sliding doors, furniture, unisex toilet, and tactile flooring. The modifications are made to the emergency exit doors, existing doors, and the reception counter.

Auditor General Tashi, the Head of the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) Gerhard Adam, and officials from Tsirang dzongkhag inaugurated the remodified structures.

Modified at the cost of Nu. 3.8 million with fund support from Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the centre is expected to receive increased numbers of participants in the training programmes, including the PwDs.

Professional Development Centre in Tsirang

Deputy Auditor General Minjur Dorji said that the need for such facilities was realised after a colleague with PwD couldn’t access training and development programmes due to unfriendly structures.  “We hope that this facility benefits PwDs in availing training and development,” he added.

Tashi Phuntsho, 36, works as an auditor in Tsirang. He was left wheel-chair-bound after a fatal accident. He said that he couldn’t join most of the professional development training due to his disability.

According to the Population of Housing Census of Bhutan 2017, 2.1 percent of the Bhutanese population has some form of disability.

PDC’s programme director, Cheki Dorji, said that though there were inclusive schools like Muenselling institute, Khaling, and Changangkha MSS, among others, Bhutan did not have a training centre that was PwD-friendly.

He said that the capacity development programmes for the PwDs will be conducted  in line with other programmes. “It is also in line with the government’s policy of ensuring that all new buildings incorporate universal designs and features that make it accessible to all people.”

Bhutan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010, with a commitment to provide rights and social inclusion for the PwDs.

Gerhard Adam said that “Leave No One Behind” is at the core of ADC’s development policy and a fundamental principle in the Austria-Bhutan Country Strategy. “I hope that any trainee passing by PDC will reflect on the retrofit and take back the reflections to the trainee’s organisation for a sustainable yet humble beginning in making all public infrastructure PwD-friendly.”

Bhutan and Austria share 35 years of bilateral cooperation. Royal Audit Authority (RAA) and ADA started their first cooperation in 2012.

To date, ADA supported RAA with EUR.655,422 (Nu.51.577 million). Most of the cooperation was in capacity development.

As Bhutan graduates from the Least Developed Countries’ list next year, Gerhard Adam said that the bilateral cooperation between the countries will come to an end too. “But it doesn’t mean that there won’t be relations between the two countries.”