My weeks have been getting progressively more interesting as I’m learning more about Vietnamese culture, and noticing all the differences between Canada and Vietnam. One large difference that I’ve seen is access for people with disabilities. As I walk around the streets I notice large curbs without areas for wheelchairs to go onto, the streets are busy with vehicles that don’t stop for pedestrians, and small sidewalks full of parked motorbikes which are challenging even for an abled bodied person to navigate around.
The schools we teach in are 3 storey buildings with no elevators or ramps. I’ve also noticed that I don’t actually see physically disabled people around, and there are no students with physical disabilities at the schools we’re at. I find myself wondering where these individuals are. I know that these people are highly valued here as I have had conversations with locals and they speak of disabled people in a very loving way. There is a coffee shop near my apartment that employs blind and deaf people, and I know some shops and museums employ agent orange victims, and proceeds of bracelets or other items that kids have made go to support these people. I know that persons with disabilities are cared for, respected and appreciated so I’m assuming there is a lack of access because it would be too expensive to add additional infrastructure to the already existing buildings in this developing country. I have a lot more questions about these things.
I’m really curious as to what uniquely abled people here do in order to navigate these spaces. It’s possible that they have specific schools for physically disabled students, but the fact remains that the sidewalks and streets would be next to impossible to go down. I hope to learn more about how persons with disabilities are supported through these environments, and also have the opportunity to meet some students with disabilities and ask them firsthand how they find traversing through streets and buildings with limited access.