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Phuket Opinion: Disabled fighting for equal opportunities

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PHUKET: Nalinee Boonthawadchai, 42, has lived in Phuket since 1990. She has an accounting degree from Phuket Rajabhat University and a second degree in broadcasting.

A serious road accident in 1985 robbed her of her left arm. Five years later she lost both legs in another road incident.

She now works at the Phuket Provincial Employment Office and in her spare time runs the Phuket Road Accident Victim (PRAV) Club, which she founded in October 2011.

“For the past six months I have been working for the Phuket Provincial Employment Office’s Support Department (PPEO), providing employment advice to everyone, including disabled people.

Employers must open their minds to accept disabled people and not just lock us out. The PPEO is a very good place to see how an employer should treat disabled employees.

After work, I dedicate my time to the PRAV Club. As club president, I find and document road accident victims and other people in need. I make sure that information gets to the right government departments so those victims can get assistance.

Having a disabled family member greatly affects the whole household. A father who used to be the breadwinner becomes dependent on other family members. Sometimes children have to stop going to school to look after that person. Sometimes specific problems fall outside a government department’s remit. That is where we step in to try to coordinate assistance.

Many Phuket organizations actively help the club with financial and resource donations, with much support coming from the Provincial Administration Organization and other agencies, such as the Social Development and Human Security Office and the Red Cross.

I fought hard to get parking spaces for disabled people at shopping malls. However, I still see able-bodied drivers using parking spaces reserved for the disabled.

I still have problems, too. Right now I have a court case against a company I worked for a few months ago. By law a company with 100 workers must employ at least one disabled person. However, the company locations had no wheelchair access. Every day I had to be assisted to get into work. They didn’t treat me as they did other employees. I don’t want a single baht from them, but I do want this to serve as an example.

The PRAV is very active during the main holidays. New Year and Songkran are the worst periods for road accidents. Everyone knows that drinking and driving is dangerous, but still it continues. Except for Bangkok, nowhere else is taking this seriously. This is wrong and I want anyone with the authority to apply the law and arrest those driving while under the influence of alcohol. Subject them to the full force of the law instead of letting them off or giving them a small fine as punishment.

I understand Phuket is a tourist destination and the authorities do not want to report crimes that will adversely affect the tourism industry. Tourists come to have fun and for many that involves drinking. However, letting drunk people drive could also ruin Phuket’s reputation.

Drink as much as you like, but please do not drive.

I would also like to ask every disabled person to be proud and show your abilities. Society is opening up much wider for us. So come out and tell the public how good you are. Be clear with your employers about what you can and cannot do. Do not be shy.

I have only one arm, one brain and a heart – but I am happy with my fate and I won’t give up. I am just trying to live as able-bodied people do and I can smile every day for the rest of my life.”

— Chutharat Plerin

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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