The Government and State Legislature of Kosrae passed the Kosrae Disability Act (Bill 191) on 3 December 2021, following which they were mandated to produce the Disability Accessibility Program to ensure the implementation of this law on the ground for persons with disabilities. The implementation plan that has been developed is titled the Kosrae Disability Program.
The Bill 191 Committee includes representatives from the Department of Transport and Infrastructure, the Department of Security/Safety (Police), the Department of Education and the Department of Health Services, Civil Society Organisations, and key members from the Kosrae State Legislature.
The Kosrae Disability Program includes practical measures to ensure persons with disability in Kosrae have access to the following:
- Disability-friendly parking spaces,
- Disability-friendly and accessible building facilities,
- Inclusive educational services,
- Equal employment opportunities, and
- Supportive and inclusive social services.
From 18 to 20 January, a team from the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Human Rights and Social Development Division (HRSD) conducted a workshop with the Bill 191 Committee members and one of SPC’s grantee partners, the Kosrae Special Parenting Network (KSPN) to draft the Kosrae Disability Program.
According to the Governor of Kosrae, Honourable Tulensa Palik, after passing the Kosrae Disability Act the State is now aware of its duties to provide equal opportunities to promote respect and inclusivity for all people with disabilities.
“We are therefore very grateful for the support of SPC in helping the State to develop this implementation plan which will help us to slowly but surely implement some of the things listed in our law which we passed in December of 2021,” Hon. Palik said.
“We are hoping this implementation plan will guide us to put in place some very practical measures to ensure our disabled persons in the community are able to enjoy a wholesome and meaningful life,” he added.
The Department of Health Service are the custodian of the Kosrae Disability Program and is tasked with the implementation on the ground.
Acting Director for the Department of Health Services, Kun Mongkeya said his team had already requested an amendment of the State Code to create a new division under the Department which will be called the Division of Social Services. This new division will look after the well-being of persons with disabilities, gender, youth, and other marginalised groups.
“This new division will work with all other government departments to help move things forward in terms of implementing the Kosrae Disability Plan,” Dr Kun said.
He added there is an approved budget to get a staff to head the new Division of Social Services and hopes that the amendment to the State Code will be approved by the Kosrae State Legislature during their first sitting in February of 2023.
Senator Ruth Jonah, the first-ever female senator elected to the 13th Kosrae State Legislature said that the amendment requested by the Department of Health to form the new Division of Social Services is a priority for the legislature.
KSPN is a grantee funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its “Promoting, Just, Engaged, Civic-Minded and Transparent Governance program” (PROJECT Governance). USAID, through PROJECT Governance, also funded the workshop to develop the Kosrae Disability Plan to ensure inclusive governance for all.
The Kosrae Disability Program will now be submitted by the Director of Health Services to the Governor and the Kosrae State Legislature for endorsement before implementation begins.