Students document access problems for disabled
by Gia Loc
HCM CITY (VNS)— " Go away from here."
Tran Thu Tham and her classmates received this gratuitous advice often while investigating public buildings and other facilities and services to compile a brochure on accessibility for people using wheelchairs.
A fourth-year student of the Social Sciences and Humanities University in HCM City, Tham said her team was not allowed to enter many public buildings when the purpose of their visit was revealed.
"After entering buildings, we would observe the entrance, the corridors, stairs, elevators and toilets to determine whether they could be used by people with disabilities, especially those confined to wheelchairs," she said.
"The difficulties we faced in entering the buildings and other facilities were discouraging at the beginning," Tham said.
There were many times when she and her classmates wanted to give up, but "thinking about the aspirations of wheelchair-using people for a city without barriers, we continued."
The team members encouraged each other and kept finding "tips" to persuade managers of public facilities and buildings.
Tham said they did this work during their free time and after almost a year of hard work, they were able to prepare a brochure that tells people with disabilities what to expect when entering a public building or facility.
"We are proud of what we have been able to do," Tham said.
Last Sunday, 1,000 copies of the brochure were given to disabled people in the city. Wheelchair bound persons with the brochure can get useful information on places in the city that they could go to. The information is also available on the Disability Research and Capacity Development Centre (DRD) website.
For example, if a wheelchair-using person wants to go to the Le Thi Hong Gam Career Orientation and General Technical Education Centre in District 3, the brochure tell them that the building has a slope at the entrance that is wide enough for them to use. Inside, there are no elevators, only stairs.
Le Minh Duy, 25, who uses a wheelchair to get around, and is one of people who helped compile information for the brochure, said he has always faced difficulties in accessing many public facilities and services, and this had limited his integration into mainstream society.
Like Duy, Nguyen Chung Tu, a student of the Natural Sciences University, said that he was hesitant about going to many places. "I need the help of other people to climb staircases and reach some offices," he explained.
The inconvenience has prevented me from "normal interaction" with people, Tu said.
When he heard about a plan by the DRD to make a guidance brochure, he was enthusiastic about joining the effort.
Over a period of one year, volunteers investigated nearly 1,800 facilities, including office buildings, People's Committee offices, schools, clinics, culture houses, pagodas and other sites in Districts of 1 and 3.
Of these just 78 offered convenient access for wheelchair-bound people, said Tu Manh Ky, head of the brochure-compiling group.
"I feel that people with disabilities have been forgotten in this life," she said.
"Vietnamese laws stipulate that people with disabilities are given equal access to and use of public facilities including transportation, cultural, sports, tourism and other services in order to fully integrate into society," she said.
However, developers and contractors of buildings did not pay any attention to this issue, she added.
"The brochure not only provides information on accessible facilities and services for wheelchair-bound people but also old, pregnant women and patients," Ky said.
The volunteers hope that the brochure will be a first step to improving people's awareness of the need to provide a convenient living environment for people with disabilities and encourage them to join efforts at making this happen.
"Moreover, the brochure is expected to make authorities recognise shortcomings in public works and improve them in order to provide the access that people with disabilities need," Ky said. — VNS