Integration of visually and hearing impaired in Turkmenistan

03 Dec 2009

For visually and hearing impaired people in Turkmenistan, the Rehabilitation Center in Ashgabat is more than a place to learn English and make new friends, it is also a vital resource center. The Center, established by the Deaf and Blind Society of Turkmenistan and upgraded with the support of UNDP, also provides them with an opportunity to study computers, learn new professions and to become more integrated into society.

Thanks to the center’s vocational training, Kakabai Ataev, a hearing impaired young man, became a masseur and got a job: “This was my goal. I always wanted to get a profession and a job. Now I want to learn more, maybe I can do my own business in the future,” said Kakabai.

More than 80 percent of graduates of the elementary rehabilitation programme and vocational trainings in carpentry, sewing and sewing equipment maintenance (for the deaf) and general massage (for the blind) have successfully landed jobs in their home towns. The vocational training programme is conducted as part of the UNDP project, “Social and Economic Integration of Visually and Hearing Impaired.” The Deaf and Blind Society, known as DBS, also provides employment opportunities for its members in different production facilities such as a sewing workshop, a publishing house, a workshop that makes locks, carton making facilities and other sectors.

While state support for the disabled includes allowances and special provision for medical treatment, policies enabling people with disabilities to fully integrate into society have to be developed in Turkmenistan. In the absence of such policies, the DBS cannot fulfill the rising demand for services and jobs by visually and hearing impaired people. The demand is particularly strong since DBS is the only organization providing such services.

According to Chary Ovezov, Head of The Deaf and Blind Society of Turkmenistan, non-governmental organizations serve as a platform for testing new approaches and methods suggested by international organizations, and contribute to the creation of a comprehensive National Plan of Action on Disabled.

As part of this, the Deaf and Blind Society established a dialogue with the Government of Turkmenistan at the policy level resulting in proposals for the development of a National Action Plan on social and economic integration of disabled people. The plan was then submitted to the Government for consideration.

Since 2005, UNDP has supported the Deaf and Blind Society of Turkmenistan in implementing the project, “Social-Economic Integration of Visually and Hearing Impaired.” The project develops sustainable approaches to the integration of visually and hearing impaired people into economic and social activities. As part of that, it advocates for improved policies on the disabled, for building capacity of service providers and raises community awareness of the disabled's needs and rights.

Today, with the near-completion of the project, the Deaf and Blind Society can offer an inclusive model for integration of people with disabilities into economic and social activities with proper state support.

This large scale advocacy has prompted Turkmenistan to accede to the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in 2008, thus becoming the first Central Asian country to do so.

“We’ve been working with the Deaf and Blind Society on this project for five years now," Richard Young, UNDP Resident Representative in Turkmenistan. "We’ve shown that people with disabilities have skills and competencies to be mainstreamed into regular society, and what can be done to assist disabled people to realize their rights. We are firmly convinced that, by guaranteeing the full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, we are also making an important contribution to the betterment of the Turkmen society as a whole.”