BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The government is mulling the introduction of a specific work quota for individuals with disabilities, as part of its efforts to encourage social inclusion in the workplace.

Acting head of the Ministry of Education’s Special Education Unit (UPK), Ali Yusri Abdul Ghafor, said on Tuesday that discussions were being held with the government employment agency JobCentre Brunei on the potential of introducing such a quota.

“We are not asking for pity… [They are capable of work,] but due to their different abilities they are often overlooked and miss out on potential job interviews or opportunities,” he told The Scoop on the sidelines of a disabilities forum.

UPK is also in talks with the Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) and the Youth Development Centre on the possibility of creating new vocational programmes for people with disabilities after they complete O-level studies.

The Special Education Unit’s acting head, Ali Yusri Abdul Ghafor (C), speaks during a forum on disabilities held at the International Convention Centre on January 9, 2019. Other speakers included Bahri Bohari (2L), education officer from Dato Basir Primary School, Lambak Kanan; Dr Abang Muhd Fahmy Awang Hepnie (2L) from Rehabilitation Unit, Ministry of Health; and President of Down Syndrome Association Ustazah Hjh Zaleha Hj Abu Salim (R).

The latest statistics from the Community Development Department’s (JAPEM) show that 6,506 persons with disabilities are registered with the government. Previous reports stated that only 56 were able to find full-time employment.

Ali Yusri said there are still many challenges in terms of ensuring equality and inclusiveness for special needs individuals.

He explained that Brunei needs to build infrastructure that is more accessible for people with disabilities, saying that most mosques and schools have yet to meet these standards, preventing special needs individuals from participating in everyday activities.

He is, however, hopeful that this will soon change with the recent launch of the Different Abilities Design Guidelines booklet — created by the Ministry of Development — which is aimed at making public buildings more accessible.

Ali Yusri acknowledged that a lack of manpower in the Special Education Unit also creates long waiting periods for people to access their services, but they do their best to maximise resources for their 65 personnel.

Young members of the Down Syndrome Association man a booth during an event to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, held on January 8, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Harun/The Scoop

Speaking at the forum, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan, underlined the government’s commitment to the rights of persons with disabilities, including the ratification of international treaties and the allotment of land for the Council for the Welfare of Persons with Different Ability.

The Youth Development Centre is also planning specific programmes this year to help increase employment opportunities for people with special needs, he added.

The minister urged all parents caring for a child with disabilities to register them with JAPEM so the government can provide them with all available services.

“The registration of persons with different abilities is very critical in order to assist the government and its relevant agencies in planning appropriate programmes and facilities,” he said.