Twenty years ago, the U.S. Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act, a sweeping legislation designed to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities.
For many years, groups in Vietnam have been working for similar protections and guarantees from that nation's government. In part one of a two part report, we look at the efforts which have resulted in a similar law for the disabled in Vietnam this year.
The International Labor Organization says more than five million women and men in Vietnam, or approximately six percent of the population, have a disability. Recent statistics from the Vietnam Household Living Standard Survey say the figure is more than three times higher, or about 13 million people, based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health.
On June 17, 2010, the National Assembly of Vietnam enacted the first comprehensive national law guaranteeing the rights of people with disabilities.
Frank Donovan is the Mission Director for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Vietnam.
"The Vietnam Disability Law was actually the culmination of all these different efforts and a recognition by both the government itself and the people with disabilities organizations that you really needed a law to start enforcing some of these good policies that were out there," he said.
The National Disability Law is the product of an intensive effort of more than a decade to develop a legal framework for an inclusive society. The Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped was the primary partner in pushing the movement toward the new law.
Donovan says people with disabilities should have access to the programs and supports necessary for their full participation.
"People with disabilities should enjoy the same rights and access as other people, whether it is to justice, to being able to live independently and being included in a community, to having access to information, communication, education, health services, on and on, rehabilitation, work and employment," he said.
Van Le is the Program Officer for Disability Projects with USAID and says the agency's efforts helped to formulate specific components of the bill over a seven year period.
"From 2003, USAID wanted to make the programs more comprehensive and using a holistic approach to assist the people with disabilities. We added in the policy components, we added in the social components, and include the employment components," he said.
Tangible advances by organizations in Vietnam maintained a steady progression toward the national disability law.
In Part Two of this report, we will hear from beneficiaries of the Vietnam Disability Law and training efforts by USAID.