Draft law aims to give disabled a better deal

HA NOI — Lawmakers yesterday pored over the draft law for People with Disabilities with the aim of encouraging businesses and social organisations to improve relations with disabled persons.

Hosted by Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee heard o­n the last day of their 23rd session the reports o­n the status of people with disabilities, which was prepared by the Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan. According to Ngan, the overall living conditions of the 5.5 million Vietnamese people with disabilities remains unsatisfactory.

About 80 per cent of those who reside in cities and another 70 per cent of disabled people in rural areas are dependent o­n their families; 24 per cent of them live in temporary housing, 41 per cent of those older than 6-years-old are illiterate and 93 per cent of adults older than 16 are unemployed.

Ngan admitted that the Ordinance for People with Disabilities, which has existed for 11 years, has not been properly enforced.

"It’s true that most disabled people have yet to access public transport, hi-tech facilities and infrastructure that are available to other people. Businesses are not willing to employ the disabled and not all local authorities have shown interest in setting up an employment fund for the disabled," Ngan said.

But the report also mentioned that all cities and provinces now have their own community-based rehabilitation centres. According to the report, 260,000 children with disabilities now share schools with their ordinary peers, and 6,000 disabled children attend specialised schools. An estimated 10,000 people with disabilities have been assisted in finding work at job booths, as well.

The terminology used in the law brought about a lot of discussion, too. Many were divided over whether it should be named the Law for the Disabled or the Law for People with Disabilities.

Nguyen Van Thuan, chairman of the NA’s Legal Committee, was concerned about the legal enforcement of the law after it was adopted.

"If the law was made for people with disabilities, it would mean a much higher number of people would fall into this category and would be entitled to any advantages approved by the Government. Would the Government be capable financially of handling the situation?" he asked.

The existing ordinance for disabled people did not work properly, he added.

Tran Dinh Dan, director of the National Assembly’s Office, said many rulings in the draft law remained too general. For example, the law should stipulate which facilities in public buildings must be accessible for the disabled and violations would result in strict fines and punishments, he said.

Ha Van Hien, chairman of the National Assembly’s Economic Committee raised the issue of how this law would affect foreigners with disabilities living in Viet Nam.

The draft’s Clause 2, Article 35 states that foreign people will be able to enjoy some, but not all of the rights guaranteed to Vietnamese citizens. However, what rights the foreigners will and will not receive still remain vague. These exceptions would have to be made clear, he said.

But most lawmakers agreed that the law, if adopted, should contain more tax exemption and favourable lending policies for businesses and organisations that employ between 2-35 per cent of people with disabilities.

They also suggested more specific and legitimate policies that help educate, care for and provide legal assistance to disabled citizens.