Perhaps my favourite part of working with the Disabled People’s Organization of Bhutan is the fact that the work we perform is born out of co-operation and discussion. The management and organisation are fully run by a group of persons with disabilities (PwDs), with the support of a few people without disabilities.
The sad part of my working experience with the Disabled People’s Organization of Bhutan has been some of my friends and family members telling me often that I may also become disabled while working with PwDs. It clearly shows that they have negative notions about disabilities, which is a concerning issue in our country. Despite having a National Policy for Persons with Disabilities and numerous schemes, there are still hidden facts and ideas about disabilities. Some persons with disabilities continue to remain indoors and some live without support from their parents and families.
The Population and National Housing Census 2017 reported that close to 2.1 percent of the country’s population is living with disabilities. However, there is no accurate data about the type of disabilities and the unique stressors that disabled people face. That is why there is still a large section of society that has been left unreached and unheard. The Disabled People’s Organization is trying its best to reach out to those marginalised groups but it is very challenging as there is still discrimination and social stigmatisation in practice.
Many people with disabilities live in greater poverty, with more significant challenges than everyone else. Imagine a hurricane – people with disabilities would need early access to shelter, social support, and medical assistance. As potential climate refugees, along with everyone else affected, some people with disabilities will require a different level of support in terms of access to food, shelter, and transportation. I feel that PWDs are being systemically ignored by governments around the world when it comes to the climate crisis, even though they are particularly at risk from the impacts of extreme weather.
Few countries make provisions for the needs of people with disabilities when they make plans for adapting to the effects of climate breakdown. Yet people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable to climate impacts, partly because of the nature of their disabilities and also because of the social disadvantage. They are some of the most marginalised people in our society and they tend to be poorer and have fewer resources. People with disabilities are likely to face dangerous situations as a result of the climate crisis. For instance, many people who use wheelchairs risk getting stranded as there are usually no plans for their evacuation. They will be unable to use unadapted vehicles.
Few countries make provisions for the needs of people with disabilities when they make plans for adapting to the effects of climate breakdown. Yet people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable to climate impacts, partly because of the nature of their disabilities and also because of the social disadvantage.
There are no examined and detailed climate pledges and policies in place in our country as of now. It is important for the country to have policy agreements that contain a requirement for people with disabilities to be considered. They should also be part of countries’ domestic plans for adapting to the impacts of the climate crisis. Most of the countries that did include specific references to people with disabilities did so without including meaningful mechanisms to consult people with disabilities or ensure that their rights are respected. The impacts of extreme weather often stipulate that people with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups such as children, women, and older people, are given special consideration. But when it comes to domestic policies, that focus is often lost.