The Centenary Park in Thimphu is now accessible to people with disabilities.
The adaptation is part of an initiative of Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen to make public spaces accessible to people with disabilities.
The Ability Bhutan Society and the Thimphu thromde will be working together to make more public spaces accessible to people with disabilities.
The initiative is a very important one and there is a long way to go before people with disabilities in Bhutan can enjoy the same things as the rest of us.
It is therefore equally important that all of us support this initiative in our own ways.
It starts with physical infrastructure.
When a structure like a building is being constructed, ramps and elevators can be incorporated so that it becomes wheelchair accessible. Building bathrooms that are accessible to people with disabilities is another step. Such inclusions should apply more so if we’re talking about an agency or organisation that offers services to the public.
However, it has to be acknowledged that not all will be able to afford to incorporate such facilities. But if you’re a service providing agency, then alternative ways of providing your services to people with disabilities have to be available. If the person cannot reach you to pay a public utility bill for instance, your service should be able to reach them either through the internet or telephone.
And if you already offer your service online, there should be features incorporated for those with visual impairments.
There will be costs involved but perhaps those who choose to incorporate facilities that allow people with disabilities with easier access can be rewarded through tax incentives.
The thromde is currently building a pedestrian footpath network. Perhaps slight modifications could be incorporated to make these footpaths accessible to wheel -chairs as well, especially the one being planned along the expressway or the Wangchhu. This would mean making them wide enough for wheelchairs and smooth enough to allow them to move easily.
However, it is not only new structures that can be made friendlier to people with disabilities. When older structures have to undergo a major renovation, both relevant agencies and organisations could suggest incorporation of certain facilities.
Some may question why such facilities are required as they don’t see many people with disabilities outside their homes. This is because facilities that would allow their movement are not available.
Once such facilities exist, people with disabilities will be able to live their lives just like everyone else such as visit the park, use the bus, pay their utility bills, go shopping, and take a stroll by the river, among others; activities most of us take for granted, not realising these are everyday challenges some face.