AIDING DISABLED PERSONS: ECHOES FROM TURKMENISTAN
Erle Frayne D. Argonza
How far have developing countries addressed the Disabled Persons problems? Expectedly, the more prosperous ‘tiger’ and ‘dragon’ economies, followed by the ‘emerging markets’, have appreciably addressed the problem in one way or another.
Differential access to services by marginal sectors do vary across the diverse developing countries. Those countries emerging from the dark years of Stalinism, notably the Central Asian societies, do lag behind in the ‘affirmative action’ policies for disabled persons for instance.
In the Philippines, it took the audacity of one known journalist to establish a party list group that will represent the Disabled Persons, as a legistative way of fast-tracking fiats that benefit the sector. This journalist, Art Borjal, is himself a DP, being a paraplegic, and the laws he initiated in Congress during his victorious incumbency as party list legislator, still stand till these days as precedent-setting innovations.
Below is an interesting human interest story about the DPs of Turkmenistan. Once a colony of imperial Russia, Turkmenistan was forcibly integrated into the Soviet Union by the Bolsheviks. It gained its independence upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
[Manila, 25 May 2013]
Turkmenistan: Helping people with disabilities move forwardYuriy Kulik might have remained unemployed, relegated to the fringes of society in Turkmenistan. After losing his sight as a teenager, he could not find a job that would accommodate his disability.
But in 2005, Kulik took part in an intensive course that taught him how to adapt without his sight. It taught him how to read and write in braille, and gave him the skills to become a professional masseur.
- From 2005 to 2009, the programme trained more than 220 visually- and hearing-impaired individuals.
- 80 percent of graduates of the Deaf and Blind Society of Turkmenistan’s work-training programme have found jobs.
- Salaries for garment-factory workers tripled after training.
- Between 2009 and 2012, 10 graduates of the rehabilitation programme have helped retrain approximately 50 visually impaired individuals in all five provinces of Turkmenistan.
The course he took, offered by the Deaf and Blind Society of Turkmenistan (DBS) with the support of the United Nations Development Programme, teaches people with disabilities basic literacy and how to function outdoors. But it also teaches work skills, such as carpentry and sewing (for the hearing impaired) in addition to massage (for the visually impaired).
From 2005 to 2009, the programme helped give more than 220 visually- and hearing-impaired individuals a new start in life. About 80 percent of graduates got jobs: some people from the provinces set up their own private businesses at home, while others work for DBS.
UNDP has helped DBS train sign-language interpreters to support DBS’ efforts in training the hearing impaired, including children. It bought minibuses, as well as computer equipment to produce audio books.
The Society has a number of enterprises—a sewing workshop, a publishing house, as well as facilities producing locks, cartons and other items – where many graduates of the programme work.
Currently, its garment enterprise in the city of Turkmenbashi is working at full capacity, thanks to orders for mattresses, bed linen and work uniforms from local oil refineries. The garment workshop’s quarterly volume of production has increased to US $32,000, resulting in salary increases for its visually and hearing-impaired workers (from $60 to $180 per month).
The Society relies in part on profits from its enterprises to support its operations. But because the profits don’t cover its operating expenses, the initiative has received $685,000 in funding from the European Union, UNDP and the Asian Blind Union.
Following a large-scale awareness-raising campaign on the local and national level, the project engaged local administrations in a dialogue on the needs and concerns of people with disabilities. The next step for the successful program will be scaling it up to the national level.