Thinley Namgay

About 100 members of the Taxi Association of Bhutan, comprising of taxi tshogpas, assistant tshogpas, and board members from 20 dzongkhags attended a daylong ‘Disability Equality Training’ at Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School in Thimphu on February 29.

Organised by the Disabled Persons’ Association of Bhutan (DPAB) and Ability Bhutan Society (ABS) in collaboration with the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) and United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), the training was expected to help taxi drivers understand the challenges faced by persons with disabilities and how to support them.

Members from DPAB and ABS trained the participants on how to provide better service to persons with disabilities such as visually impaired, hearing disability, persons using a wheelchair and other intellectual disabilities. Intellectual disabilities include people with down syndrome, developmental delays, and an autism spectrum disorder.

Participants were trained how to fold wheelchairs, basic sign language to communicate with the deaf persons, communications with persons with all sort of disabilities, ways to help the visually impaired persons and persons with intellectual disabilities.

The chairperson of the Taxi Association of Bhutan, Rinzin Chophel, said such training inspire them to work hard. “Helping persons in need is a noble action and important element to accumulate merits. Our members are committed to working closely with DPAB.”

He said their nature of job demands them to travel daily, making them more susceptible to accidents and they might become disabled.

The association’s board of director, Kezang Jigme, said they could not render more help to persons with disabilities until now due to lack of training. “From now on, we will use the skills to serve them well.”

The training was also given to the city bus drivers in the capital in August last year and officials intend to provide the training to all taxi drivers in the country.

ABS’s executive director, Ugyen Wangchuk, said that the child disability report 2011 revealed 21 percent of children from two to nine years have at least one form of disabilities.

Meanwhile, persons living with disabilities hope the training would benefit them.

Tandin Dorji, 25, from Thimphu, is a person with disabilities. He is a wheelchair user.  He became paralysed when he was two years old in a vehicle accident.

He is a national Paralympic badminton player and uses taxi most of the time. He said that while most taxi drivers were supportive, there were some who charges more fare from them. “I hope they would be more supportive from now.”