Phurpa Lhamo

Media and democracy literacy (MDL) videos for those with hearing impairments, which have a Bhutanese sign language interpreter incorporated into the presentation of the content, were launched on January 7.

The videos discuss democracy, the role of citizens in a democracy, news reports, and judging the credibility of news reports, among other topics.

Wangsel Institute for the Deaf’s Principal Dechen Tshering said that for hearing-impaired students, the biggest challenge was excess information in the form of spoken and print media.

He added that as students have low literacy levels, it was difficult for them to understand the content. Out of 107 students at the institute, 42 students are over 18 years old.

The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) launched the literacy resources with support from the institute.

BCMD’s Executive Director Chencho Lhamu said that in the current age of technology and information, persons with disabilities, illiterate, and religious personnel were also on social media platforms.

“Media isn’t inherently good or bad, but how we use it matters. Therefore, in order to encourage more civil use of media, make people responsible for what they do on social media, and self-regulate the use and consumption of media, we are offering them these resources.”

In 2019, BCMD made them available in braille.

Earlier this year, the BCMD also donated 50 daisy player dictaphones, which converts print documents to audio, to officials from the Special Education Needs (SEN) division of the Ministry of Education (MoE).

MoE official Pema Chhogyel said that the players would be distributed to schools this academic year.

“MDL is extremely useful for people with disabilities in Bhutan, and having access to Evo e10 will make a bigger impact since persons with disabilities will also have access to media and democracy literacy, and if these types of devices were available in our time, our achievements would have been much higher”.

Chencho Lhamu said, “We understand that some people have more challenges in accessing education than others. So, we have to recreate these resources in the format that is accessible to persons with disabilities.”

The United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) supported the project.

Prior to the launch, the BCMD also provided a three-day training to 36 participants, including teachers and youth centre coordinators from two districts of Tsirang and Thimphu.