Awareness: To create a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities in the country, CSO Ability Bhutan Society began an awareness programme in Wangdue yesterday.

The CSO is conducting the awareness programme with support from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

The programme was conducted for the people of Bajo town in the morning, and for the people of Thedtsho gewog in the afternoon. While hundreds turned up for the programme at Thedtsho gewog, only 15 from Bajo town turned up in the morning.

Ability Bhutan Society aims to address social discrimination and negative attitudes towards people with disabilities through such grassroots awareness programmes, said the communications official with the CSO, Chechey.

Officials said that despite having the same rights, often people with disabilities are excluded from social life and are unable to enjoy full participation in society.  Misinformation, cultural beliefs, and negative attitudes towards people with disabilities exist in the community and even amongst service providers and policy makers.

Officials said field reports have confirmed that people with disabilities are neglected among friends and by neighbours. Many service providers have a poor understanding of disabilities and of the capabilities of the differently-abled. Local leaders were often unaware of the available resources for children with disabilities.

A disability is often linked to bad karma and lack of access to information that would enable understanding the long process involved in stimulating, supporting, and promoting their development. As a result, many parents do not seek available services, officials said.

To improve awareness at all levels in society policy makers, service providers, locals, religious leaders, youth and families, are being included.

Officials said leaders in the community, the monastic body, and government will need to be better informed of disability issues in order to plan, allocate resources, and implement inclusive programs to help children with disabilities realise their rights.

The awareness programme will be conducted in the six gewogs of Wangdue.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue