The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a significant day of celebration which is commemorated every year on December 3, by all members of the United Nations including Brunei Darussalam.

This day celebrates the achievements of the differently-abled in the development of society, through their involvement and progress in the social, economic and cultural spheres.

In Brunei Darussalam, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is also celebrated by all walks of life, including individuals with different abilities, parents, youth, differently-abled associations, government agencies and from the private sector, through various events including mass prayers, motivational talks by persons of different abilities and forums.

The theme of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities for this year is “Promoting the Participation of Persons with Disabilities and their Leadership: Taking Action on the 2030 Development Agenda”. With this theme, people from all walks of life are encouraged to join together in the empowerment of persons with different abilities and promote their involvement, and particularly in the realisation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, towards a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.

This theme is also in line with the efforts of the government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Negara Brunei Darussalam to promote the rights of persons with different abilities in Brunei Darussalam, implemented through the Plan of Action under the Special Committee on the Elderly and Persons with Different Abilities, the National Council on Social Issues, which outlines several strategies on the development, well-being, welfare and support system for people with different abilities.

Our national efforts are also in line with international and regional commitments in promoting the rights and welfare of people with different abilities, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Bali Declaration on the Enhancement of the Role and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in ASEAN Community, as well as the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025: Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

An elderly man reads a braille book during a World Braille Day event held at the Eye Centre of RIPAS Hospital on January 5, 2019. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Brunei Darussalam continues to prioritise the well-being and welfare of people with different abilities in the country, and has implemented various initiatives to strengthen the participation of the differently-abled in the fields of employment, education and society. These include several on-going initiatives such as the following:

  • The provision of disability pension allowance.
  • Regulations under the Building Control Order through the Different Abilities Design Guidelines to ensure all new buildings provide facilities and access for the differently-abled.
  • Programmes and opportunities to undergo skills development courses that will enable them to find employment or start their own businesses, including through promoting and marketing products made by persons with different abilities, and providing entrepreneurial spaces for the differently-abled and the elderly in premises including government buildings.
  • Inclusive communication programs, such as through the implementation of braille and mobility workshops and sign language-based workshops, earlier this year.
  • Celebrating the achievements of our para athletes in various prestigious overseas competitions, such as winning gold at the 2019 World Para Bowling Tour Championship in the Philippines on November 14-21, 2019, as well as winning four medals at the Arafura Sports Games, Australia in April 2019. Brunei Darussalam hopes to include national para athletes in the future SEA Games.
  • Plans to build a building complex for persons with different abilities that will provide space and facilities for work, study and conducting recreational activities in a comfortable and appropriate environment for the differently-abled.

National efforts to advocate and empower the differently-abled in Brunei Darussalam is carried out through a “whole of nation” approach in collaboration with other government agencies, non-governmental bodies and strategic partners. In this regard, the Council for the Welfare of Persons with Different Abilities (MKOKU) and all non-governmental organisations also play an important role in educating and raising public awareness to support the rights of the differently-abled, especially through activities such as commemorating World Autism Awareness Day and national charity runs.

Moving forward, the stage of development of persons with different abilities in the country is given due focus, whereby Brunei Darussalam is currently conducting a survey of persons with different abilities in two phases. The first phase is expected to gather information about the differently-abled employed in the government sector and the private sector, and the second phase will collect information on the involvement of the differently-abled in the community. This effort is intended to further strengthen policies, support services and programmess towards the welfare of the differently-abled in Brunei Darussalam.

On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we must renew efforts to jointly work together through the whole-of-nation approach, and assist in improving the quality of life for those with different abilities and contribute to the development of society.

Let us both celebrate and appreciate the contributions of those with different abilities in Brunei Darussalam because they are also a valuable asset for achieving economic progress, well-being, family and social wealth of the nation in achieving our Brunei Vision 2035.

We also extend our deep appreciation for the sacrifices of family members and the caregivers of the differently-abled, where the support of families and educators is invaluable in helping to motivate and guide the differently-abled to become more independent and resilient.

Happy International Day of Persons with Disabilities to all persons with different abilities, as well as parents, caregivers and associations in Brunei Darussalam, and also all volunteers who support all persons with different abilities in Brunei Darussalam.

• YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin is the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports.