What does it mean to be inclusive?
In its simplest terms, inclusivity would be to include or cover all services, facilities, or items normally expected. But are we truly being inclusive?
49% of Disabled People Feel Excluded From Society. Despite the poll being limited to 2000 disabled respondents, it’s a testament of how we ‘include’ people with disability (PWD).
Let’s first look into Zimbabwe and Europe as case studies on the different approaches as well as issues faced in being inclusive towards PWD.
Given the difference in the countries’, it is clearly not a fair comparison. However, it’s still interesting to look into how it is being handled!
Inclusivity in Zimbabwe
Disabled people are kept shut out from the public because of their beliefs. It’s said that disabilities are associated with witchcraft; the basis of how people socialised. Despite efforts to educate them, the people are fixated on their beliefs in spells and witchcraft.
As shown, the educational gap affects how society includes PWDs. As such, education is a pivotal step for cultivating a truly inclusive society. Teachers should be trained/taught to include PWD in every step in order to cultivate an inclusive society for all.
The Dutch city of Breda has taken the appropriate steps in nurturing an inclusive society. Drivers trained in disability awareness allowed all buses and bus stops in the city to be fully accessible to wheelchair users. Furthermore, stairs include ramps and pathways are kept flat!
Moreover, in certain hotels, accessible rooms had lowered wardrobes and mirrors, wheel-in showers and seated baths.
Improvement does not happen overnight. The key was that Breda has been working on the issue of inclusion for all since the 1990s.
What about Vietnam?
Vietnam has over 6.2 million PWDs in a survey conducted in January this year (2019). So what steps has Vietnam taken to be more inclusive towards PWDs? The government has been increasingly striving to include PWDs with regulations to abide by in order to create a more inclusive community.
This includes the Labour Code and Inclusive Education plans and programmes such as the Inclusion of the Vietnamese with Disabilities set up to tackle this matter. The Labour Code focuses on regulating the employment of PWD.
We are entering a new age of employment for amputees. There are infographics to show the timeline of the progression for PWDs in Vietnam. Approximately 86% of PWDs are employed and it can certainly be improved.
It takes two hands to clap. With Vietnam’s government schemes and support, how are the people reciprocating to these measures?
Although the government is implementing more schemes and initiatives such as The National Action Plan to Support People with Disabilities and The Inclusive Education plan, the PWDs still feel they are at a clear disadvantage, and many struggles to do daily tasks such as moving about.
Even bikes with three rear wheels are difficult to drive as you have to use your strength to keep balance and it’s very easy to fall over if the surface is uneven, which it usually is – as a result, a lot of people who use these bikes have shoulder problems.
A widespread lack of understanding of disabilities leaves many people unsure of how to deal with the disabled. Many PWDs stop schooling very early and not to mention the psychological impacts of being a PWD. “School is one area where the perception that people with disabilities are different is particularly strong.
The disabled are often socially ostracised or ignored” says Nguyen Thanh Duoc – a 31-year-old PWD. Such treatment has a major impact on the psychology of the disabled, leaving many with low confidence and a belief that they are worthless.
Being one of the fastest growing economies, Vietnam is in a good position to cultivate a more inclusive society and inspire change in other countries in the process. The future is looking brighter for Vietnam’s PWDs. In a country with a mix of causes, from traffic accidents and malnutrition to unexploded ordnance and a poor healthcare system, Vietnam will always have a vast number of people with disabilities.
These societal changes will be a pivotal factor in determining how well they can integrate into the rest of the population in the future. Certain foreign and domestic organisations are a huge help, but it will ultimately come down to the attitude of the average person on the street.
“Disabilities are not going to fade out, in fact, the numbers are growing. They are not the barrier to inclusion, society is. We must change environments, attitudes and organisations, and everyone is included in this,” – Gemma Thompson, Project Manager at Kids First and expert in disability issues.