Disabled get shortchanged by higher education system

Passing university entrance exams with high marks, some disable students have still been refused by many universities for health reasons or facing many difficults in study at schools.
student Le Minh Tu shares what difficulties she has faced (Photo: SGGP)
student Le Minh Tu shares what difficulties she has faced (Photo: SGGP)
At a conference held lately by the Ho Chi Minh City-based Disabilities Research and Capacity Development (DRD) Center to seek solutions to improve access to education for people with disabilities, freshman Le Minh Tu of Van Hien University, who has a hearing impairment, said that three schools refused to admit her application for health reasons.
Tu said though she agreed to pay tuition fees for herself and an interpreter to help her study when she enrolled in colleges in HCM City, the universities which she applied for still refused her. Only Van Hien University admitted her and even provided support of interpreting.
Worse, students with disabilities faced many difficulties in schools such as no support of interpreting, higher tuition fees, and classmates’ discrimination.
Another case, senior student Nguyen Ngoc Hiep of HCMC University of Pedagogy, who is visually impaired also moaned of difficulties in studying. He said that bus drivers had often passed by him without picking him up, or he must ask friends to copy documents and then his relatives had conversed the documents into those for the blinded.
Many other people with disabilities have complained that universities had not exempted tuition fees. As per DRD’s latest survey, tuition fee of a public university is around VND60 million (US$ 2,600) a year for a normal student but it will be VND80 million (US$ 3,780) a year or more for a disabled student. Worse, tuition fees of private schools will double.
Explaining the problem, Le Huu Thuong, an coordinator of the project to seek solutions to improve access to education for people with disabilities, listed cost overrun for disabled students such as device purchase, scaned documents, magnifier; travel fee or interpreter fee.
Additionally, director of Vietnam Center for Research and Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Duong Phuong Hanh said that HCMC has currently no public junior high school which admits the deaf and hearing-impaired students.
Moreover, there has been no regulation to support interpreting for these special students in high schools and universities; consequently, disabled students face difficulties in studying.
Most of university-disabled graduates depended on their own efforts and the families’ assistance.
Only serious disabled students who presented certificates that they are members of poor households and near poor households are eligible to get exemption of tuition. However, paperwork is a complicated barrier to complete, said a parent in district 12.
Accordingly, the disability community call for support from schools to facilitate their integration into society; for instance, managers of school can decide exempt tuition fee for these special students.
Besides, movements such as helping classmate, carrying friends to school should be launched higher-education facilities to enhance shining examples of good students who help others with the aim to give a hand to people with disabilities.
Deputy director of the city Public Transport Management and Operation Center Le Ha An said the center was piloting a system with LED screens helping people with hearing or visual impairments to recognize which buses are coming to stations. The piloted system will be installed in bus stations in Sai Gon University and the city’s Labor Palace.

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