Life was not easy for 29-year-old Ugyen Wangdi who has hearing difficulty. Communicating with others was a challenge “I didn’t know sign language. My parents had no idea about it as well.”
Ugyen often faced discrimination because of his disability. “Back in the village, when we went out to work, people would take advantage of my disability and make me do the most difficult tasks,” he recalled.
“Some people would avoid me because it was hard to communicate with me.”
Life changed for the better after he enrolled in Wangsel Institute for the Deaf in Paro in 2004 where he now teaches sign language.
He is positive the lives of people like him will get even better with Bhutan stepping up efforts to advance the rights of persons living with disabilities.
A National Policy for Persons with Disabilities has been drafted with support from the Austrian Development Corporation (ADC). An action plan to implement the policy is also being drafted.
Ugyen took part in a workshop held in Paro last month to review the action plan. “I am happy that persons with disabilities are being consulted, engaged and involved in the formulation of the Action Plan,” he said.
Led by the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC), the workshop is a collaboration by the UNDP, UNICEF and World Health Organization (WHO) to promote the rights of persons with disabilities in Bhutan.
Representatives from the Disabled Persons’ Association of Bhutan, Draktsho Vocational Training Center for Special Children and Youth, Ability Bhutan Society and government stakeholders also took part.
The initiative is a part of the UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD), a unique collaborative effort that brings together UN entities, governments, Disabled People’s Organizations and the broader civil society to advance disability rights around the world.
The UNPRPD particularly supports coalition-building and capacity-development at country level to facilitate the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Bhutan is one of the 14 countries selected as the third round of UNPRPD countries.
As someone who knows what it's like to live with a diasbaility, Ugyen understands how the importance of such initiative.