A milestone year for the differently abled

Rokiah Mahmud

The country has made significant milestones this year for the welfare of the differently abled said Minister of Culture Youth and Sport, Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin (pic right) in his message for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

This year’s theme is ‘Leadership and Participation of Persons with Disabilities Toward an Inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable Post COVID-19 world’.

“The theme is relevant to what we are currently facing as the pandemic has impacted our lives, how we work, how we think and many more. These are also felt by our persons with disabilities (PWDs),” said the minister.

The minister said the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme gave PWDs special attention and priority by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to receive COVID-19 vaccine.

He also conveyed “the highest appreciation”, to parents, guardians and non-government organisations (NGOs)responsible for PWDs “for their utmost support in the government’s effort to curb the spread of the virus”.

He said the country this year recorded significant milestones in strengthening inclusivity and the protection of PWDs, such as the introduction of the Persons with Disabilities Order 2021 in October.

“In addition, severe punishment for offences on abuse and neglect have also been introduced, and it is my hope that our community ties will be strengthened, in order for us to have compassion towards caring and protecting our PWDs.”

He added, “Through the Old Age Pensions and Disability Allowances (Amendment) Order, 2021, a care-providers allowance was also introduced for recipients of disability allowance.

“This is intended to ensure the wellbeing of PWDs, especially those who are bed-ridden or unable to care for themselves, and to support their family members.”

The minister said on February 1, the use of sign language for Berita Perdana was launched with the support of the Prime Minister’s Office through Radio Television Brunei.

“This is proud achievement towards increasing accessibility I terms of delivery of information and current affairs especially the hearing-impaired community,”.

At the same time, the minister commended the efforts made by the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) in building and upgrading 47 mosques and suraus across the country in order to be more PWD-friendly that providing wheelchair access and ramps,

PWDs washrooms and toilets, as well as parking spaces.

The minister hailed efforts carried out by the Ministry of Education (MoE) and MoRA that have prepared programmes for PWDs students and teachers.

Under the Special Education Department at the MoE, 2,505 PWD students registered for the year 2021.

Meanwhile, three centres of excellence for inclusive education have been established in Temburong and Belait districts, while nine inclusive model schools and 123 learning assistant centres have also been set up.

Some, 1,433 PWD students have been registered under Islamic Studies Department under the MoRA with 75 special education needs teachers.

Furthermore, the government provides support to NGOs for PWDs as strategic partners through the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, with the provision of financial assistance for water and electric utilities payment for every PWD organisation.

The minister said as the Chair of ASEAN this year, Brunei Darussalam has also continued to emphasise the welfare of PWDs across the ASEAN region through the implementation and monitoring of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025, which ensure regional efforts in prioritising PWD issues through the strategic involvement and collaboration of stakeholders.

“This year, Brunei Darussalam through the National Council for the Welfare of Persons with Different Abilities (MKOKU) will chair the ASEAN Disability Forum 2021, to be held online, involving other PWD Organisations in ASEAN, to discuss matters pertinent to the areas of education, employment and active involvement of PWDs in the community,” he said.

The minister called for continued efforts to empower and better the quality of life of PWDs.

“Let us celebrate and appreciate our PWDs as integral members in our society who can contribute to the development of the nation.”