Differently-abled people in the country do not have a lot of choice. Some even do not have space in our education system. What they do get aplenty, though, is social stigma and our pity. It is not pity they deserve, but our compassion and support.

We have made some commendable headway concerning facilities and opportunities for our differently-abled population. We have schools for the differently-abled people. Some schools have special programmes to accommodate persons with disabilities. We can do a lot more still.

What our programmes for differently-abled people should really focus on is lessening the burden on the individuals and their families. This means empowering them, making them feel important and contributing citizens of the nation. The typical example of our failure, by way of example, is how we deal with our people struggling with addiction. We send them to rehabilitation centres but we do not build a space of hope for them. So, they end up in the same street corners and dark places. Kicking the habit so becomes a risible effort and burden of institutions and the economy.

We welcome the news that labour ministry’s human resource department has launched skills development training programme for persons with disabilities and single parents of the differently-abled children who are economically disadvantaged. The department in collaboration with BUSSI-EN Group, a social welfare organisation based in Japan, and the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) will train 16 people. Nine of them are wheelchair users.

The trainees will learn basic tailoring skills including sewing national dress, bed sheets, quilts, pillow covers and health staff uniforms, among others. After the conclusion of the training, the national referral hospital will employ at least five trainees based on their performance and establish a tailoring unit at the hospital. Looking beyond the training itself, what this means is that the selected trainees can give hope to many others like them. At the core of the idea is to help them be independent and successful.

We could train our differently-abled people for customer service centres, teaching and other desk jobs that require basic computer and telephone skills. What is more important is that we make our society friendly towards our differently-abled population. We can give our fellow citizen more than our pity.