The community of people with disabilities is composed of more than 1.3 billion people spread out all over the globe. Some of them are not even aware that they belong to the community and a lot of them try to hide their disabilities for many different reasons. With that said, someone needs to know that they have allies wherever they may be in the world. Especially for countries where help is barely even given or limited.
This is where the Billion Strong movement comes in as a global initiative for a positive identity, ability, and inclusion to bring the billion voices of people with disabilities together.
We need this global organization to look into these different issues and give light to other efforts being made. This article will feature some of our board of advisors in three countries from Asia: Israel, Thailand, and Bhutan, a glimpse of their work for the disability community. These are some of the countries where we rarely hear stories from, and Billion Strong believes that it is about time for the world to listen to them.
Shay Senior, Israel
From my perspective, the biggest challenge that the community of people with disabilities faces in my country and worldwide is the lack of unity. The community seems to be divided into groups of people who were born with disabilities, gained them during their lives or families. The different organizations and foundations primarily represent a particular group of people, excluding the rest. That is why an umbrella organization will be a solution for all of us to share, discuss, learn from each other, and feel included. As an individual and Palta as a company, I aim to increase our allies and collaborations with individuals, organizations, and governments to raise awareness and promote our studies and research about fashion as a basic need of any person worldwide to feel comfortable, confident and independent in. We praise and support Paralympic athletes worldwide as people who show us diversity in their different levels and types of disability and backgrounds.
Paralympic athletes often show us not just what our bodies are capable of but how to adapt and overcome. In the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, we have made the outfit for the Israeli delegation as the first collection designed in collaboration with the athletes resulting in an that fits the needs of each participant as social proof for our methodology creating clothes that provide a more comprehensive range of individuals.
The Billion Strong movement is essential for the community because the people who lead it come from different backgrounds and national organizations. Each one brings different voices and communities to represent in one organization.
When an umbrella organization will represent and have a space for different people, as many as the 1.3 billion people with disabilities worldwide could feel at home and present the power, we are willing to have on our planet. When I was contacted to be an advisor for the organization, I felt recognized and trusted for what we have done in Palta in the previous years. I would take that offer in two hands, be an adequate representation of the organization in Israel and worldwide and be responsible for representing my community as part of the organization.
Winit Moonwicha, Thailand
My name is Mr. Winit Moonwicha, Deputy Director on Special Affairs of The Christian Foundation for the Blind in Thailand under the Patronage of His Majesty the King. I am responsible for promoting learning materials production, media services, assistive technology for the blind, promoting higher education, employment, and improving the quality of life for the blind in rural communities.
In addition to my current duties, I collaborate with other organizations that support Job opportunities and Life Quality for people with disabilities in Thailand.
From the year 1989 of my career with CFBT till present 32 years of my contribution which I am proud of success such as the initiation of the Braille production using a computer, teaching computers to blind students in inclusive education, promoting CFBT to be one of the training centers in Indochina region.
One of the significant problems that people with disabilities face in Thailand is unacceptance in society. This results in the impact that people with disabilities lack educational opportunities and sustainable careers in their future. The main reason may be Thai society has a fundamental religious belief and a compassionate culture with generosity helping others with less fortunate. Therefore, the view of people with disabilities is more of assistance rather than development. Since members in families have an attitude towards disabilities as unfortunate resulting from a past life that has rendered PWDs within their same families, Most PWDs could not have access to education or even participation in family activities, Lacking the development of skills necessary, affecting to insufficient Income. We found that some PWDs get opportunities, but we still struggled with the limitations, for instance, the blind lack of learning materials, the schools still refused PWDs, Lacking support systems during PWDs study at schools such as insufficient materials and assistive technology. People with disabilities have difficulty going to schools because the building is not conducive to their traveling.
Regarding career opportunities, People with disabilities are also considered ineffective or incapable of performing tasks. Although Thailand has launched the PWDs rehabilitation Act since 1991, and several laws promoted education, social welfare, health services, and job opportunities, it is still considered a gradual development. To change people’s attitudes towards disabilities in society, people with disabilities must struggle more and prove their abilities to break barriers obtaining good life quality.
The Christian Foundation for the Blind has made significant changes for the community of disability in Thailand. It gives several blind people an opportunity in every way, but there are still many blind people who lack opportunities and are left behind.
I decided to join as an advisor for Billion Strong with the high expectation that I will cooperate creating new opportunities both domestically and internationally through cooperation between organizations with the same objectives, building learning communities and sharing experiences, and finding ways to strengthen the work of organizations in the country.
It is also expected that the cooperation with Billion Strong will help promote opportunities for people with disabilities in Thailand to gain new opportunities and social acceptance. Not just for Thai society, but it’s a step towards internationalization with an equal society mission concept.
Sonam Gyamtsho, Bhutan
My name is Sonam Gyamtsho. I work as the Executive Director of Bhutan’s Disabled People’s Organization (DPO) (www.dpobhutan.com). The DPO is a cross-disability organization focusing mainly on uplifting people with disabilities through various policy and technical interventions.
One of the biggest challenges or struggles faced by people with disabilities in Bhutan or worldwide is exclusion. People with disabilities are excluded from decision-making processes. Many important decisions are passed in the absence of people with disabilities. The assumption about people with disabilities and making decisions on their behalf by people without disabilities is one of the challenges. DPO, in its endeavor, is using Disability Equality Training (DET) to create awareness and educate the public, decision-makers, policymakers, and others alike by making people with disabilities become their spokespersons and ambassadors. This has created some impact now and gaining momentum in Bhutan.
Movements like the Billion Strong Movement are essential to the community of people with disabilities. Such actions empower people with disabilities to voice their rights and become dignified individuals capable of making bold decisions and executing any societal task.
It is this profound idea that inspired me to become an Advisor.
There is much work that still needs to be done for the community of people with disabilities. The good news is, there are also a lot of people who are willing to do it. All that these leaders need is for their voices to be heard, to be supported, and most of all, to be united. Be one of these leaders and join the Billion Strong movement now. Sign up and be a representative of your country. Let your voices count because together, we are Billion Strong.