Nguyen Thi Thanh Vinh was born in a small village in a suburb of Ho Chi Minh City. Unlike most children, Vinh could not go to school when she was six years old, as no school in her area accepted a blind girl. Five years later, she left home for Ho Chi Minh City to join Thien An, a shelter for children with vision disabilities. There, at the age of 11, she started learning to read and write using Braille.
Now, Vinh is a seventh grader at the Centre for Continuing Education in Tan Phu district, where she is following an academic programme together with students without disabilities. “I am very happy to be able to go to school. I really like it a lot. Now I know I am not alone in this world. I learnt many useful things to be able to live independently. I also made many good friends and we have a great time at school. I wish that all children with disabilities could go to school,” says the 15-year-old girl.
“We want to be able to access higher education. To date, people with a hearing impairment cannot join secondary school or higher levels of education because there is no help with sign language at school,” Tran Thi Minh Tam explains. Coming from the Hy Vong school for people with hearing disabilities, Tam and her friends also said they wanted to have better vocational training so that they would be able to find a good job.
Vinh and Tam were among the 90 people with disabilities, from 15 provinces across Viet Nam, who participated in a consultation workshop in Ho Chi Minh City in January to share their views and ideas on the world they want after 2015.
Viet Nam has around 6.7 million people with disabilities, including 1.3 million children with disabilities. Many of them do not enjoy equal opportunity to access basic social services like healthcare and education. Their opportunity for employment is also limited. Many also suffer from discrimination at school and in the community.
Access to information and participation
Tran Van Trung, a 51-year-old man who uses a wheel chair, shared that he finds it difficult to move around as roads and public transportation are not accessible to people with disabilities. “Accessibility to public transportation is very important for us. If we cannot get out of our house, we will not have much chance to learn, to interact with other people, to take part in social activities and therefore will not be able to work to earn our living,” he said.
For Dinh Phuong Hanh, a woman with a hearing impairment, accessibility is not only about access to transportation. She also experiences a lack of information and opportunity for participation. She wants all public buildings and public transportation to provide information in sign or text form so that people who cannot hear can be aware of what is happening. She also wants people with disabilities to be able to participate in issues and policies related to them. “We would like to participate from consultation to implementation of policies related to us,” says Hanh.
Mai Thanh Nhan, a business woman from Tien Giang province in the Mekong Delta, shared the same view as Hanh that relevant government agencies should have a better awareness of the Law on People with Disabilities and that reinforcement of the law should be carried out more consistently. Nhan specifically wanted to have more simplified procedures when it comes to dealing with administrative work. “When I established a business, I wish the procedures were more simple so I did not have to go to many places to submit different kinds of papers. Moving around is not that easy for me,” she said.
The workshop was facilitated by both people with and without disabilities. Different ways of communication were used, including sign language and Braille, to make sure people with disabilities could fully participate in the consultation process. Participants discussed many different issues, including social assistance, health, education, vocational training, employment, participation, women’s empowerment and access to transportation, communication and information.
An enabling environment
The common wish of all the participants was for a friendly and enabling environment for people with disabilities, so they can integrate, participate and contribute to society like any other person. “We would like to have an equal chance to study and work so that we can lead an equal life compared to other people,” says Vu Xuan Truong, a man with vision disabilities from Lam Dong province.
The consultation workshop was part of a series of consultations where the UN in Viet Nam is asking people about the world they want and what they think a new development framework should look like in 2015 and beyond, when the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire.
“This consultation provided people with disabilities, one of the most vulnerable groups in Viet Nam, with an important opportunity to share their views and needs about the future they want,” said Le Hong Loan, Chief of the Child Protection Section of UNICEF Viet Nam, one of the UN agencies organizing the workshop.
More info? Watch the video