DISABILITY is part of biodiversity. Not all disabilities are visible. In some cases, disability is not permanent and such temporary disability is seen in various cases. Bangladesh is said to have a significant number of people with disabilities. Various studies shows that most of the people with disabilities are victims of poverty and low income. It is, therefore, time to take effective initiatives to improve the living standards of the people disabilities, who need to be provided with appropriate treatment, education and training.
A nationwide disability identification survey programme was undertaken to identify types of disability, quantify it and establish the number of people with disabilities. The pilot survey was launched in 2012 to streamline the system’s effectiveness before it spread across the country. The survey was completed in 12 upazilas on a pilot basis. In the 2012–13 financial year, the initiative was taken to conduct a house-to-house survey in the rest of the country except the upazilas surveyed on a pilot basis.
In the 2013–14 financial year, work began with physicians nominated by health managers and the consultants of the disability services and assistance centres under the National Disability Development Foundation to determine the type and level of disability in people under the survey by age, gender, race, culture or social status. Disability is the condition of not being able to do the tasks in daily life because of impairment, which refers to the condition in which part or system of the body loses its normal function, partially or completely, transiently or permanently.
The World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Impairment, Disability and Handicap classifies disability and disability problems into three categories — impairment, disability and handicap. The Bangladesh Disability Welfare Act 2001 states, ‘Disability means a person who is born with a disease or is injured in an accident or is physically handicapped or mentally unbalanced due to malpractice or any other cause and is permanently disabled or out of balance, partially or completely inactive and unable to lead a normal life.’
Types of disability differ on different grounds — (1) primary disability: congenital disability of different types; (2) subsequent or acquired disability: disability after birth because of various reasons. Types also differ depending on organs affected: (a) physical disability, (b) visual disability, (c) hearing disability, (d) speech disability, (e) intellectual disability and (f) multiple disability. And the degree varies: (1) mild, (2) moderate, (3) acute and (4) extreme.
The cause of most of the disabilities is not known. But what is known is that it can be divided into several categories. The common causes are (a) hereditary (b) marital relationship with blood relatives, (c) accidents, (d) high fever, (e) poisoning, (f) infection or diseases or tumours of the brain, and (g) nutrition, vitamins, and iodine deficiency. Birth-related causes, before birth, are (a) if the mother is under 18 years of age or above 30 years of age, (b) maternal malnutrition during pregnancy, (c) if the mother has taken any strong drugs or chemicals during the first three months of pregnancy, (d) if the mother has special measles during pregnancy, (e) if the pregnant mother has heart related-complications or diabetes, and (f) if the pregnant mother has habits of drinking, smoking, etc.
The causes that taken place at the time of birth are (a) immaturity, (b) delivery mismanagement, (c) if equipment is not used properly during delivery, (c) head injury, and (d) lack of oxygen. The causes that take place after birth are (a) head injury, (b) oxygen deficiency, (c) accidents, (d) high fever, (e) poisoning, and (f) infection, diseases and tumours in the brain.
Mental disability is minor in early stages but it is usually manifested before the age of three and the number of boys with disabilities is about four times higher than girls with disabilities. They are slow to learn and are indifferent to care. Many children repeat words that are meaningless. Some people are afraid of any particular word. The absence of normal response in pain and dangerous situations is observed in them although there is no lack of emotion.
In order to provide free physiotherapy and other medical assistance for people with disabilities, disability services and help centres were introduced in five districts for the first time on April 2, 2010. As services have been appreciated, 10 more centres were opened in the 2010–2011 financial year and 35 more in the 2012–13 financial year.
Disability services have been expanded to cover 33 districts. There are 103 disability service and help centres in 64 districts and 39 upazilas. Moreover, an autism corner has been introduced in each centre. Disability services and help centre will be set up in each upazila in phases. The National Disability Development Foundation launched an Autism Resource Centre on its own premises. The services that the centre provides are teletherapy, group therapy, referral services and counselling.
The centre also provides home intervention facility. Various training programmes have been implemented at the initiative of the foundation to make the public aware of autism and other disabilities. People with disabilities and their parents and guardians are involved in the training. In addition, internal and external training has been arranged to develop the human resources efficiently.
The National Special Education Centre is run at Mirpur, Dhaka under the National Disability Development Foundation to provide education for students with special needs. The objective of the centre is to create skilled human resources required for the education, training and rehabilitation of students with disabilities and to create awareness among people. The centre has special education teacher training colleges, hostels and resource sections. There are three hostels with three schools for mentally, hearing and visually impaired students. Bachelor of Special Education course runs in Special Education Teacher Training College.
Md Arafat Rahman is an assistant officer, career and professional development services department, Southeast University.
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