The Vocational Development for the Blind Association (VDBA) officially opened last Wednesday, aiming to provide blind people with opportunities to access education and vocational development.

The opening ceremony took place in Phonxay village, Xaysettha district, Vientiane where the association’s office is located. It was attended by Minister to the Government Office Ms Bounpheng Mounphosay, Deputy Head of the National Coordination of Disabled People and Elderly Office, Mr Bounneuang Sidavong, and VDBA President Mr Souliya Khounin.

The aim of the ceremony was to inform the public about the association’s office, which will become a point of contact and communication for people with vision impairment and also detail the history of blind people in Laos.

Visually impaired people in Laos have ability and fortitude the same as blind people in other countries, but have tended to be ignored by society at large. Their activities rarely appear in the media and a lack of information access puts them at a disadvantage, Mr Souliya said.

Our association is pleased to be a representative of people with disabilities nationwide and will be a bridge to connect with domestic and overseas donors who want to help people with visual impairment, he added.

“If blind people have access to education and vocational training, they will be able to help themselves and reduce their burden on others and society. Thus, it is up to everyone to help them so that they will have those opportunities.”

According to the United Nations, there are at least 650 million people living with disabilities worldwide. Laos has around 600,000 people with various impairments, including physical disability, mental illness and other kinds of disability.

Ms Bounpheng also spoke at the ceremony, explaining that the government is concerned about the welfare of disabled people and has helped to support, assist, rehabilitate and promote their rights in line with Party and state directives and policy.

In 2001, the government established the Lao Disabled People’s Association (LDPA) and the Lao Association for the Blind in 2007. It also intends to establish the Lao Association for the Deaf and Mute in order to represent their interests going forward.

In addition, the LDPA has partnered with provincial labour and social welfare departments to establish branches in 10 provinces. Currently, the LDPA has 131 disabled people’s groups and more than 7,000 members, Ms Bounpheng said.

Laos is one of 153 signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention entered into force in May 2008 and was ratified by Laos in September 2009.

“Nowadays, development and assistance for disabled people is very important. We need to create appropriate jobs and boost their skill levels so they can become functioning members of society,” Ms Bounpheng added.

Source: Vientiane Times
May 27, 2013