Not every disabled person lacks the capability to engage in professional work and no employer should hesitate in employing people with disabilities, says President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
Speaking at the Riveli Awards this Monday, Solih said many people with disabilities were skilled and talented, and were bringing honor to Maldives through their courageous efforts.
“Not every person who has a disability is incapable or incapacitated. It’s evident that many among them possess capabilities, talents and skills. Some of them continue to bring honor to this nation despite their disability. They serve as examples to the society by facing challenges with courage and dignity,” said Solih.
“A person may possess numerous talents and skills despite being disabled. It is the failing of the ‘able’ if their skills and capabilities go unrecognized,” he said.
Solih said that sidelining people because of a disability they may have was unacceptable.
He said that it was his administration’s policy to provide special protection and care to people with disabilities.
Solih said there were 15,360 people living with disabilities in Maldives, only 7,771 of whom are registered at NSPA for disability allowance.
“We are currently working on identifying the people who aren’t on the NSPA register and researching the allowances they can be provided,” he said.
Solih said that the families of people with disabilities faced a huge burden.
“We have identified obstacles to meeting day-to-day expenses and housing,” he said.
He said the issue needed immediate attention, and appealed to the public for its support.
“The administration has therefore made the decision to do more towards securing sufficient housing for such families,” said Solih.
He said that the lack of income earning opportunities to support themselves posed a key challenge to people with disabilities.
Solih noted that many employers were hesitant towards hiring people with disabilities, but said that people with disabilities provided valuable contribution to society.
He said that government offices and State companies were providing employment to people with disabilities, and the government was also offering low-interest loans to people with disabilities to start up their own business in order to help them support themselves.
A disability is not a misfortune, said Solih.
“Instead, the entire community needs to unite and find ways to employ their talents and capabilities. To make them fortunate,” said Solih.
He said the administration was also working on establishing a special employment quota for people with disabilities, as well as drafting new regulations to facilitate employment to people with disabilities.
“The challenge is not the fact that they are part of the community. The true challenge is the lack of opportunities to these community members,” said Solih.
Solih said people with disabilities faced challenges in even simple tasks such as crossing a street in Male’ City.
“At the very least, even the pavements aren’t easy for them to use. It’s not easy to enter and exit a building, or move around a building,” he said.
Solih said the law for protection of people with disabilities alone wasn’t enough to ascertain their rights.
He said that one key challenge was lack of access to proper health care.
“The administration has decided to establish a community-based rehabilitation system. The purpose of this is to provide people with disabilities with access to therapies, education and training from within their local communities,” said Solih.