Improving access to disability support
A new model of disability screening is easing the process of identifying and categorizing persons with disabilities – and helping to ensure their inclusion in the country’s social protection system
Salyan, Nepal: On a sunny winter morning in November 2022, at the office of the Bagchaur Municipality in Salyan District in western Nepal, excitement is in the air as the local government rolls out its very first disability screening camp.
Eager locals stream into the premises, having been pre-informed about the programme, designed to screen and provide disability identification cards to persons with disabilities living in the municipality.
“Although there are existing national level acts and policies related to the rights of persons with disabilities in Nepal, the lack of detailed guidelines on classification and categorization had complicated the process of providing the right ID cards,” says Ananta Kumar Gautam, the Chief Administrative Office of the municipality.
"This meant that persons with disabilities were struggling to access and enjoy the benefits they were entitled to,” he adds.
These benefits include access to social security allowances and various disability-specific services related to education, health, public transport and assistive devices, among others.
Based on the clear need for more explicit guidance on identifying persons with disabilities, UNICEF – in partnership with the European Union, Save the Children, and CWISH – supported the Government in developing detailed checklists as per a new model of disability screening. These would assist local government to make these screenings more transparent and effective so as to address the exclusion of persons living with disabilities from the social protection system.
"Thanks to the new guidelines, we’ve been able to successfully organize our first screening camp, covering 12 wards,” Ananta says. Over the two days that the camp was held for, 91 people were provided relevant ID cards.
One of them was seven-year-old Karishma Bishwokarma, who has intellectual disability. At the camp, the little girl went through a medical check-up and was promptly issued an ID card based on the findings – much to the immense relief of mother Kopila.
After all, this isn’t the first time Kopila has had to accompany her child through this process. Her older son Reshan also has intellectual disability and Kopila recalls the time and effort it took for him to get his ID card.
“We had to go to the district headquarters for the screening, and it took much longer, between two to three days,” she says. “We were also forced to spend a lot of money on travel, accommodation and meals while the card was getting made.”
This time, however, the ease of the screening process was a pleasant surprise, according to Kopila.
“Things at the municipality were so well organized and so close to home,” Kopila says. “There was no hassle.”
Kopila’s sentiments are shared by Premi KC, another parent from Bagchaur who brought her son – nine-year-old Govinda – to be screened. Govinda was already diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was four, but because his symptoms were not very distinctive, it had been a challenge to get him approved for an ID card.
"It was very easy this time around,” Premi says of the process at the municipality, where Govinda received the card after being screened.
Premi is happy that Govinda can finally access different allowances and services, particularly the provision of free education, given how the family’s financial struggles have preventing the boy from attending school.
Similar initiatives to screen and issue ID cards to persons with disabilities are currently being piloted in three other municipalities - Agnisair Rural Municipality in Saptari District; Dhulikhel Municipality in Kavre District; and Tarakeshor Municipality in Kathmandu District, following which 140 people have received ID cards. In 2023, UNICEF will be supporting eight other local governments in the Madhesh and Karnali Provinces to conduct such screenings in 2023. The federal government has also committed to incorporating the checklists developed for these screenings in its policy and rolling them out across the country.