Empowering Persons with Disabilities through Infrastructure

2023-09-15 16:07:14

Ulaanbaatar, September 15, 2023 /MONTSAME/.People with disabilities and their family in countryside are very happy and expressed their sincere gratitude to the Asian Development Bank and the Government. Because the people with disabilities (PWDs) now have their “second home” specially dedicated to them, the Development Center for People with Disabilities.

Jointly with the Government of Mongolia the Asian Development Bank is implementing Ensuring Inclusiveness and Service Delivery for Persons with Disabilities Project with a loan of USD 25 million from ADB and a grant equivalent of USD 2 million provided by the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific.

The project aims to ensure that PWDs in Mongolia are socially and economically integrated to help improve their quality of life by providing better economic and educational opportunities as well as enhanced public service access and delivery. As a core part of the project, Development Center for People with Disabilities have been constructed in Khuvsgul, Arkhangai, Darkhan-uul, Dornod, Dundgobi, and Khovd aimags with universal design, which means every building for the center is constructed with exactly the same design and infrastructure friendly to PWDs as well as equipment and facilities for Disability Rehab Exercise and other purposes installed are well-thought to be suitable and comfortable to PWDs. Most importantly, repairs and making parts of orthopedic equipment and assistive devices will be available at the model centers as necessary machines and equipment have been already installed. It is crucial for PWDs, especially in rural areas as orthopedic equipment and assistive devices are inaccessible there, seriously reducing the potential for PWDs to compensate for their disabilities and succeed at school or in the workplace.

The Prime Minister of Mongolia Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai attended the opening of Development Center for People with Disabilities in Dundgobi, Darkhan-Uul and Khovd aimags recently. The Premier stated that the Development Center for PWD will be built in Dornogobi and Umnugobi aimags next year, while all the 21 provinces and 9 districts of Ulaanbaatar will have such center in the future.

PWDs in Mongolia, comprising about 4 percent of the country’s population as of 2010, and their households are often more likely to be in poverty and living in isolation than the rest of the country. They also typically lack access to education, healthcare, social protection, and employment, while remaining marginalized-hindering their potential as productive members of Mongolian society. Therefore, the project, focused on six provinces, aims to achieve equal participation for people with disabilities in economic and social activities by making it easier for them to access basic services and job opportunities. Specifically, the project will focus on early identification of children with disabilities through early medical and social intervention. It will also improve the service delivery for PWDs by engaging social workers, conducting family sessions, and establishing a dedicated hotline on information, counselling, and referrals. Training for employees of the centers have been conducted.

The project's target aimags have a large proportion of PWDs and a high poverty ratio among PWDs. Based on proxy means test data, the percentage of PWDs in the bottom three deciles of poverty is 55 percent in the selected aimags and 44 percent in the other 15 aimags. Disability assessment is currently based on an outdated, narrow medical approach to determine work ability loss. Early diagnosis and identification of disability in children is underdeveloped, while older people are not recognized as disabled even if they require long-term care. PWDs in Mongolia and their households represent a population subgroup with substantially higher incidence of poverty and lower human development indicators than the rest of the population, as mentioned above. For instance, 42 percent of households with PWDs live in poverty compared with 18 percent of households without PWDs, 28 percent of PWDs aged 15-59 years are in the labor force compared with 69 percent of those without disabilities, and 43 percent of children with disabilities (CWDs) aged 6-18 years are unable to read compared with 4 percent for people without disabilities.

PWDs and the families of CWDs spend more on health services than nondisabled people, including for medicine, diagnostic procedures, and travel costs associated with visiting the capital for tests that are not available in aimag health centers. This increased expenditure contributes to greater levels of poverty among PWD households.

Parents consider the quality of education services for CWDs as low, and disabled people's organizations report poor access for PWDs to tertiary education. “PWDs, especially those with intellectual disabilities, typically lack access to education, health care, social protection, and employment, and are marginalized in society. Early diagnostic and intervention services for most CWDs are either unavailable or of poor quality. Poor access to education at all levels means that PWDs are poorly prepared for employment compared with other people. Lack of enforcement of the existing universal design standards and limited investment result in poor physical access to public buildings, including government offices, hospitals, and schools, and to transportation facilities. These are all major impediments and often prevent PWDs from accessing basic municipal and social services or nearby workplaces. PWDs face huge barriers in entering job markets because they lack skills, and companies are not prepared to provide jobs for the disabled,” stated the project officer J. Altantuya.

The project aims to find proper solutions for these problems and introduce them as examples for further introduction. The project will also enhance people with disabilities’ job opportunities through policy support and industry partnerships, while enhancing public knowledge and awareness of issues surrounding PWDs and programs through policy review and campaigns.