BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Since its proclamation by the United Nations in 1992, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is commemorated every December 3 to increase awareness and celebrate the achievements and contributions of persons with different abilities globally.
This year’s theme is ‘Not All Disabilities are Visible’, which aims to highlight that not all disabilities are physical or visually recognisable, such as intellectual, mental and hearing disabilities.
Brunei Darussalam encourages continued efforts in celebrating and empowering those with different abilities, as well as greater involvement of society in building a support system for persons with different abilities.
Various policies are being implemented to ensure that people with different abilities in the country are given equal opportunities and a good quality of life.
They include a review of the Plan of Action on Persons with Different Abilities under the Special Committee on Elderly and Persons with Different Abilities of the National Council on Social Issues.
The plan of action includes strategies for development, welfare, well-being and support system for persons with different abilities.
Among the critical issues identified in the development of persons with disabilities are to empower them to live independently with the support of the community in various aspects such as policies, infrastructure and morale.
More progress is needed, particularly to broaden employment opportunities for persons with different abilities, which includes support from prospective employers and the community for them to live on an equal footing.
Strong focus must be given on the development of persons with different abilities who are employed in the government and private sector.
A phased survey conducted by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports found that more than 130 people with different abilities are working.
Meanwhile, the Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC) Permanent Secretariat has identified more than 480 special needs individuals who are able to work.
This clearly demonstrates the need for greater recognition of persons with different abilities as valued members of society who can contribute towards national development.
In this regard, Brunei Darussalam, through a whole of nation approach, will continue to strive to further improve the effectiveness of programmes that strengthen the employability and marketability of those with different abilities.
(a) The revitalisation of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports’ Pusat Bahagia as a center of excellence for persons with disabilities, where pre-vocational programmes will be provided to enhance their training and development of life skills, as well as meet the needs of the current job market.
(b) Increasing the participation of persons with different abilities in vocational training and programmes offered by government institutions as well as private organisations to expand their employment opportunities. This aims to complement the skills of students as well as provide job training and experience to prepare students for specific careers, such as through internships and job placement.
(c) Facilitating school-to-work transition between the MPEC Permanent Secretariat and Ministry of Education’s Special Education Unit. Students with special needs would acquire the knowledge and skills needed to prepare them for work and entrepreneurship, either through the special education programme in mainstream schools or the pre-vocational programme. This initiative is also in support of the aspirations of the Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan 2018- 2022, which is ‘Provide Equal and Equitable Access to Quality Education’.
(d) Initiatives by MPEC Permanent Secretariat to increase the registration of persons with different abilities with JobCentre Brunei. This would allow matching of applicants with appropriate work opportunities and sending them to programmes that improve the employability of persons with different abilities.
Early intervention programmes through special education is also prioritised.
Pusat Bahagia, with the cooperation of Ministry of Health, is preparing to provide early intervention programmes for children with different abilities under six (down syndrome and cerebral palsy), to complement current programmes by non-governmental organisations.
Similarly, the Ministry of Education has established two centres of excellence (CoE) in Temburong and InsyaAllah will continue to establish CoEs in other districts in the next few years.
The CoE has specialised resources and learning equipment, including special education teachers and assistant teachers to meet the different needs of students with different abilities.
In addition, there are initiatives to empower those with different abilities in entrepreneurship, such as product marketing and providing retail spaces in government buildings for persons with different abilities and the elderly.
Brunei will celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities with a number of activities, in collaboration with the National Council on the Welfare of Persons with Different Abilities, private sector, several NGOs and support from strategic partners.
The activities include Pusat Bahagia Tutong Open Day, celebration of International Day of Persons with Different Abilities 2020 (organised by SMARTER Brunei), Surah Yassin and tahlil reading ceremony at the Royal Mausoleum and T-shirt project (organised by Yuth.co).
There will also be a forum, I.M.P.I.A.N programme (organised by Fera Nursing), Program Santuni, Pusat Bahagia Brunei-Muara Open Day, thanksgiving prayers at Masjid Ash-Shaliheen and Quran Khatam ceremony for persons with different abilities.
Inclusive communication programmes have also been lined up such as workshops on Braille, orientation and mobility, as well as basic sign language that has been organised since February 2019.
Inclusive art exhibitions are another initiative to raise greater public awareness on the skills of persons with different abilities in the creative industry.
This includes the Exhibition on Diversity in Art 2020 currently on display at the Malay Museum of Technology until April 2021, where as many as 22 artists with different abilities participated in the exhibit to mark the International Day of Museums and International Archives Day.
Brunei Darussalam will always strive to ensure alignment of national policies with international commitments in promoting the rights and welfare of persons with different abilities, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Bali Declaration on the Enhancement of the Role and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in the ASEAN Community, and ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025: Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
As such, the effective implementation of strategies and strengthening of mechanisms require the involvement of persons with different abilities in improving their standard of living and redouble efforts to achieve the goal of building a society that is sustainable.
National efforts to empower the differently-abled in Brunei Darussalam would also not be possible without strong collaboration with non-governmental organizations.
In this regard, we take this opportunity to commend the essential role played by the Council for the Welfare of Persons with Different Abilities and its affiliated associations, all non-governmental organizations championing persons with different abilities and raising public awareness to support their rights.
In conjunction with the International Day of Persons with Different Abilities, let us take this opportunity to strengthen our resolve to work shoulder-to-shoulder to improve the quality of life of persons with different abilities.
Let us celebrate together and appreciate those with different abilities so that they can be self-reliant and contribute to the national development as envisioned in Wawasan Brunei 2035 as citizens in a knowledgeable, skilled and civilized society.
Deep recognition is also accorded to the families, caregivers and educators for the sacrifice, love and affection and support that are extremely valuable in the well-being of those with different abilities and provide guidance for them to be independent and resilient.
Happy International Day of Persons with Disabilities to all persons with disabilities in Brunei Darussalam.
YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin is Brunei’s minister for culture, youth and sports.