BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium, the Brunei Museum and the Royal Wharf Art Gallery will undergo upgrading works to become more accessible for people with disabilities.

The renovation projects are under the 11th National Development Plan and are currently either in tendering stage or  in its architecture and design stage, said the minister of Culture, Youth and Sports in an interview with The Scoop on Tuesday.

“The renovations and upgrades will be done based on the ‘Different Abilities Design Guideline booklet OKU designs’ which was launched by the Ministry of Development in November 2018”, said YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin.

The adaption of the guidelines are necessary if Brunei wants to fulfil its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the government ratified on April 11, 2016, he added.

Speaking on the sidelines of the opening ceremony for the braille, orientation and mobility workshop organised by the Department of of Community Development, the minister said the renovation for the Royal Wharf Art Gallery is set to be completed by next year. Meanwhile, the museum is targeted for completion in 2021.

MCYS minister, YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan briefed by organisers of the ‘Braille, Orientation and Mobility’ workshop before touring the classes at Pusat Bahagia in Kg Pulaie. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar

NGOs for individuals with disabilities have repeatedly called for increased inclusivity, access and equal opportunities with the Brunei Darussalam National Association of the Blind (BDNAB) president, Muhammad Hamzi Omar saying that many of the country’s infrastructure are not designed to be inclusive and accessible to people with special needs.

The minister assured that new buildings under MCYS will adhere to the guidelines and that other existing buildings under the ministry’s purview will incorporate the designs in stages. The guidelines provide a list of design requirements for buildings such as installing ramps for wheelchair users and use of Brailles and tactile signs in strategic locations.

In addition to inclusivity and accessibility, MCYS target is to enhance skills and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.

“All our plans are moving towards creating inclusivity. We work together with the Brunei’s Council for the Welfare of Persons with Different Ability to provide them with short term vocational courses. From our early findings [data received from government agencies], there are more than 100 persons with different abilities employed and we want to see this number to increase incrementally,” he said.

In March 2018, government data stated that only 56 were able to find full-time employment. The Community Development Department’s (JAPEM) latest statistics showed that 6,506 persons with disabilities are registered with the government.

A student listens to her teacher’s instruction on how to use the braille machine as her father looks on during the first day of ‘the Braille, Orientation and Mobility workshop organised by the Department of of Community Development on April 9, 2019. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar

The braille, orientation and mobility workshop is divided into five sessions which will be held from April to October. The first session on April 9 will be be held until April 27. Fifty two participants attended the session which comprised visually impaired students, their parents as well as government officers and teachers. Some of the students were from the 42 students with visual impairment that recently received braille machines from Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB) as part of the foundation’s effort to provide the students with inclusive education.

The session covers both theory and practical aspects of using the braille machine as well as orientation and mobility techniques using the white cane. The workshop aimed to increase public awareness on the importance of braille as the ‘eyes’ for visually impaired individuals as a tool for them to read and write and to be updated with current developments. The workshop is also aimed at increasing the confidence of visually impaired participants and to teach them to be independent.