State is doing little for people with disabilities, yet some are leading fulfilling livesAlthough many organisations offer skill training to differently-abled, their efforts are not enough, officials say.
Hira Tamang was paralysed from the waist down after falling from a tree at the age of 27. For nearly two years after the accident, Tamang lived with his mother, his wife and their two daughters at their home in Dolakha until he decided to leave. Wheelchair-bound Tamang travelled to Kathmandu all by himself. He no longer wished to burden his family.
“Everything was good in the beginning. But after some time, I could feel the change in the attitude of my family members towards me. It was heartbreaking, so I left my home and came to Kathmandu,” said Tamang, who is now 32-year-old.
Tamang’s family had spent more than Rs 1.5 million for his treatment, and he did not want them to suffer financially and emotionally because of his condition.
When he arrived in Kathmandu, Tamang said he had no idea what he would do to survive.
“I remembered one hospital worker who had once told me about a foundation that provides vocational training to differently-abled persons like me. With the help of that person, I joined the BIA Foundation which helped me become a skilled Thangka painter,” he told the Post.
Tamang has been living as a Thangka painter in Kathmandu for the last three years. He says the money he earns is enough to cover his expenses.
“The majority of the people who are receiving training here have been abandoned by their families,” said Gokarna Dhungana, the foundation’s managing director.
There are many institutions in Kathmandu Valley that offer skill training to people with disabilities. Acquiring skill, however, is no guarantee of employment, according to Sudarshan Subedi, president of the National Federation of the Disabled, Nepal.
“Many people who are living with disabilities do not get jobs despite being skilled because employers are hesitant to hire them,” Subedi told the Post.
The lack of job opportunities for disabled persons is not limited to the private sector alone. It is equally, if not more, difficult for them to enter civil service.
Even though there is a 5 percent reservation quota for people with disabilities in government jobs, Subedi says the majority of disabled persons simply do not meet the educational requirements.
“Most disabled persons are not highly educated. They have little to no education because Nepal does not have a disabled-friendly education system,” said Subedi.
According to a report published by the National Federation of the Disabled, Nepal, in June last year, out of 45 differently-abled random candidates, 26 people were rejected during their job interview, 12 were accepted, and the remaining seven had not applied for any job at all.
While the state has done little to empower and encourage people with disabilities, there are some disabled persons who have overcome their handicaps through perseverance and hard work and are now leading fulfilling lives.
Sishir Khanal is one of them. Despite being born blind, the 39-year-old from Gorkha district fought all odds to lead an independent life. He has been teaching at Saraswati Secondary School in Syangja district for the last 15 years.
“I was the top student in my class, so I got the job as a government school teacher soon after I completed my studies,” Khanal told the Post.
He earns Rs 27,000 per month, which he says is enough to support himself as well as his family.
“My parents used to worry about my future, but I never considered my blindness a disability. I did fall into some hard times in my life, but I never lost hope and continued to struggle to achieve my goal,” Khanal said.
Sabin Karki’s life is another success story involving people with disabilities.
The 36-year-old was born with a hearing disability to a poor family. Poverty and his condition forced him to discontinue his studies after finishing Grade 10.
Today, Karki runs a successful grocery shop near Chabahil, Kathmandu.
“I could not study past Grade 10 because there were no schools to teach the deaf. Everyone thought I wouldn’t do anything in my life. But with the help of my friend, I started the shop and the business is going well,” he said.
Karki and Khanal are among the fortunate few who have managed to lead successful lives despite being disabled.
Subdei, president of the National Federation of the Disabled, Nepal, says for a disabled person to succeed in life, he or she needs determination and good support system, which is not possible in all cases.
“This is where the government could play a crucial role. Very few people with disabilities are employed, as the government has not been able to provide them with proper skills and support,” he said. “Although many organisations are trying to teach skills to disabled persons, their efforts are not enough to cover the whole population of the disabled.”
According to the National Population Census of Nepal (2011), 1.94 percent of the total population (26,494,504) has some kind of disability.
The country’s Disabled Protection and Welfare Act (1992) states that every private company that hires more than 25 employees should hire at least one person with disabilities for every 25 employees. The pay and perks for this employee with disabilities should be equal to those without a disability.
“However, the law has not been effectively implemented,” said Subedi.