|Last year, a report released by the National Coordinating Council on Disability in Viet Nam showed that only 117 of the 4,000 buses operating in HCM City could be accessed by people with disabilities.— Photo duongbo
by Gia Loc
HCM CITY (VNS)— For years, Phuong Que Chi rarely visited tourism sites or parks as it was difficult for her to get there by public transport.
For Chi and others with physical disabilities, gaining access to parks, tourism sites, cinemas and theatres, and even public government buildings, seemed to be an impossibility.
But a few months ago, she and about 20 others were given the opportunity to visit the Ethnic Minorities Village tourism park outside HCM City as part of a project that helps the disabled live independently.
Carried out by HCM City's Disability Research and Capacity Development Centre, the programme is funded by the Nippon Foundation, with technical assistance provided by the Japanese Human Care Association.
"This was one of the most enjoyable experiences in my life," she added. "I hope we have more trips like this."
Two other women on the trip, Nguyen Thi Bui, 24, of Tien Giang Province, and Tran Thi Ngoc Hieu, 29, of Dong Nai Province, said it had helped boost their confidence and make friends.
Although the gravel roads made it difficult for those in wheelchairs to get around, they were able to view the interior of the Rong houses with the help of volunteers.
The group had previously visited the Giang Dien Waterfall in Dong Nai Province, a site that many thought they would never see.
The head of HCM City's disabilities centre, Vo Thi Hoang Yen, said that trips like the one to the Ethnic Minorities Village had given people with disabilities a voice.
"They realise they have rights, too," she said.
Even though the country has a Law on People with Disabilities, wheelchair accessibility for people with disabilities in Viet Nam still lags behind many other countries.
Because the country has no entertainment centres for people with disabilities, the HCM City centre has set up clubs and activities, she said.
But these do not meet the real need and more programmes should be created at cultural houses, she said.
In addition, many cinemas, theatres, parks and tourism sites have neglected to meet the accessibility standards set out by the Ministry of Construction.
According to a survey conducted by the city's disabilities centre, only 78 of 1,800 civil architectural works in HCM City's districts 1 and 3 are accessible for wheelchair users.
One of the women on the trip to the Ethnic Minorities Village said that she had once been barred from attending a musical show at the outdoors Trong Dong Stage when a young employee refused to let her enter the grounds.
To stop such discrimination, Yen said the Government should strictly enforce the accessibility standards set by the Ministry of Construction and the Law on People with Disabilities.
In addition, new construction projects that violate these standards should be penalised.
The largest barrier, however, for people with disabilities was the lack of wheelchair-accessible buses.
Last year, a report released by the National Coordinating Council on Disability in Viet Nam showed that only 117 of the 4,000 buses operating in HCM City could be accessed by people with disabilities. — VNS