A visiting Fulbright scholar from Kazakhstan underscored the need for governments of countries and sovereign states throughout the world, including the CNMI, to start promoting self-advocacy for people with disabilities as the world continues to change and become “more human.”
Yevgeniy Tetyukhin, linguistics professor at the North Kazakhstan State University, said yesterday that while each country has its own priorities, its level of civilization is measured by the attitude of that country to its population of PWDs.
Self-advocacy, Teyukhin said, would make PWDs feel that they are an integral part of society and encourage them to become more involved and lead active lives, while making the rest of the community learn about the culture of disability.
“Every life is dear. The more participation there would be from people with disabilities, the better it would be for the country,” he said in an interview during a break from yesterday's presentation on disability held at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan.
The presentation is made possible by the Northern Marianas College University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities in collaboration with the Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc., which comprise the CNMI Tri-Agency.
Over 50 agency representatives, educators, and consumers attended the presentation, which Tetyukhin described as focusing on the disability program of Kazakhstan and the world as well as teaching and living disability and self-advocacy.
Himself a person with disability, Tetyukhin cited as an example the transformation happening in his native country, which previously treated PWDs as if they did not exist.
“Right now, it's a shame for the country not to see the PWDs,” he said, adding that their government's priorities include becoming a developed industrialized country and finding ways to make the PWD population wholly integrated in the community.
Tetyukhin, who visited Guam and Saipan during this trip, noted that the diversity in both territories is similar to that in Kazakhstan where people of different nationalities, religious backgrounds, and life orientations are merged.
He said the disability culture is a “special diversity” in a multicultural and modern world, which is a component of the research work he began in September 2012 at the Center on Disability Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Tetyukhin said the five-month study program touches on teaching and learning the disability culture throughout the world, allowing him to conduct presentations and lectures along the way.
Tetyukhin, whose paralyzed leg was a result of a protracted illness with polio, travel the world not only as part of the academe but also as an athlete, completing more than 150 international wheelchair marathons and participating in the Paralympic Games in Sydney and Athens.
“I can see that sports is one of the means of rehabilitation for [PWDs] because it teaches them to find a new world and is also part of teaching self-advocacy,” he said.
Tetyukhin said he will continue with his mission to become a voice for all PWDs, encouraging them to find their way to enjoy life.
“I'm always saying to PWDs, never say die,” he told Saipan Tribune. “Life is wonderful and you can enjoy it no matter what kind of disability you have.”
NMC's Floyd Masga said they are very pleased with yesterday's turnout, saying that the attendees were involved in the presentation as they raised interesting questions.
“My hope is that it will promote self-advocacy and show the people of the Commonwealth that there is a way and here is an example,” added Masga.