Kaleidoscope (Mar 8, 2015)

Update: March, 10/2015 - 07:55

by Gia Loc

New app aims to increase the disabled's access to services

Many public venues in HCM City do not have ramps or spaces that accommodate wheelchairs, and only two routes are served by buses with lifts or ramps, according to the HCM City Disability Research and Capacity Development (DRD) Centre. As a result, many people with disabilities are reluctant to take part in social and educational activities.

Now, with help from Hoa Sen University, a new app will be created for smartphones that will provide information about building and elevator access, and size of toilets, says Luong Thi Quynh Lan, the centre's deputy head.

With the crowd-sourcing nature of the app, data on accessibility and its coverage will be regularly updated and may expand to include other jurisdictions in Viet Nam, she says.

The centre will also use the app to raise awareness of those people who still do not have the confidence to leave home, even though they are not strictly confined. The elderly and pregnant women will also be able to benefit from the app.

The app, a standalone product to be developed by a team of professors and students at Hoa Sen University, will be available on smartphones and website platforms in March.

Facing social and physical challenges, many people with disabilities withdraw entirely from social activities such as shopping, going to the park or the movies, travelling, completing higher education and looking for a job, the DRD centre says.

The app project, a collaborative effort of community members, academia and others from society, received $15,000 from the Universities and Councils Network on Innovation for Inclusive Development in Southeast Asia.

Enterprising youth will do your shopping for you

Can't find a job in your field after graduation? Improvise. In the central city of Da Nang, four friends, all now 23 years old, did just that when they found themselves frustrated with their sales jobs unrelated to their finance, banking and IT university majors.

One of them had the bright idea of starting a service for time-strapped folks too busy to buy food for meals.

Nguyen Thi Loan says they all readily embraced the proposal and began to prepare for advertising.

Their parents, however, thought the idea was "silly" and a waste of time for study at university. Still, they pursued their entrepreneurial dream.

Late last year, after graduation in the summer, they advertised their services by delivering 2,000 flyers. But they received not a single order. Undeterred, they sought buyers at high-end apartment buildings in Son Tra District, and took free seafood samples for tasting.

That effort resulted in 16 orders. "This encouraged us to continue the service," Loan says.

Since then, they have advertised on Facebook and set up a fan page for their business which is called Shopping for You.

Now, more residents in Da Nang are using their services, and they have plans to open a small store to sell "safe" vegetables and eggs. — VNS