DISCUSSION ON ISSUES OF APARTMENT BUILDINGS AND PUBLIC FACILITIES ENSURING ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
In recent years, new construction and renovation of high-rise apartments and public facilities have generally focused on implementing regulations in accordance with standards to ensure access to persons with disabilities. However, current practice suggests that public buildings and condominiums are not truly ensured access to the disabled, which in general has become a barrier to persons with disabilities having difficulty in their daily lives.
The current status of the 2010 Law on Persons with Disabilities provisions
In order to facilitate the access and use of condominiums and public works, the 2010 Law on Persons with Disabilities provided specific provisions on ensuring minimum standards for ensuring access of persons with disabilities to condominiums and public works (Article 39). Furthermore, the 2010 Law on Persons with Disabilities sets out a roadmap for the improvement of apartments and workplaces of public works (Article 40) to ensure access conditions for persons with disabilities. These are quite proper and comprehensive policies, aimed at ensuring the access of persons with disabilities to construction works following the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Even so, the provisions of Articles 39 and 40 of the 2010 Law on Persons with Disabilities only focus on defining the national technical standards scope for building work that guarantees access to public works and apartments (both new and refurbished). The implementation of policies to ensure access to public buildings and condominiums is limited, difficult and challenging due to various reasons. Of which, according to statistics from the General Statistical Office, only 22.6 per cent of all health works; 20.8 per cent of educational works; 13.2 per cent of exhibition and showrooms; 11.3 per cent of conference centres and headquarters; 5.7 per cent of supermarkets; 3.8 per cent of restaurants, post offices and nursing homes; 3.8 per cent of gyms, post offices, terminals, border gates; 7.5 per cent of nursing homes, pension clubs and 2 per cent of banks guarantee access for persons with disabilities.
In addition, a study of CRPD regulations shows that the content provided for in Clause b of Article 9 of the CRPD is understood to be the obligation to apply the regulations in building accessibility for persons with disabilities including state and private-owned buildings (such as company headquarters, enterprises, businesses, etc.). The CRPD requires States Parties to apply appropriate measures to remove obstacles and greater access barriers to persons with disabilities, thus, they can participate in complete and comprehensive in social intercourse. As a member of the CRPD, Viet Nam is obliged to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to public works. In comparison with the CRPD provisions, the 2010 Law on Persons with Disabilities and other legal documents (such as the 2014 Construction Law revised and supplemented in 2020, National Technical Standards 10:2014/BXD on the construction of work to ensure access to persons with disabilities, etc.) do not provide "rigid" and specific regulations on the obligations of private institutions to ensure access for persons with disabilities to construction works for use as workplaces.
It was determined that at the time of the current Law on Persons with Disabilities’ promulgation in 2010, the policy scope of Articles 39 and 40 was reasonable and consistent with the country’s socio-economic conditions at that time. However, after more than 10 years of implementation, with current socio-economic development conditions and in the coming 10 to 20 years, when the objective of institutional improvement of persons with disabilities sets out a requirement in line with the CRPD's requirements for the guarantee of rights to persons with disabilities in various areas (including construction), this regulation is not met. In addition, the issue of improving persons with disabilities’ life quality is one of the contents targeted by the Party and the State, the expansion of the scope of "public works" (such as factories, hotels, restaurants, tourist sites etc.) is the mandatory application of the National Technical Standards system for the construction works to ensure access by persons with disabilities should be considered.
Besides, points c, d, e, Clause 2 of Article 9 of the CRPD provides for several issues such as: Providing training for shareholders on accessibility issues faced by persons with disabilities; Providing Braille signs in easy-to-read and easy-to-understand forms in buildings and other public facilities; Provide forms of on-site help and assist, including instructions, readers, and professional sign language interpreters, to make other buildings and facilities for the general public better accessible. These appropriate measures relative to Viet Nam's current socio-economic situation are relatively difficult to implement, but an appropriate roadmap is also required to ensure comprehensive access to the CRPD.
Other countries’ regulations
Research and reference to legislation in several Southeast Asian countries illustrate that there are considerable countries that have developed separate legal regulations on this issue to ensure access to persons with disabilities. For instance:
In Phillippines, the IRR of BP 344  (Batas Pambansa Big. 344 - An act to enhance the mobility of disabled persons by requiring certain buildings, institutions establishment and public utilities to install facilities and other devices) has mandatory regulations at the space for primary services and where the facilities, parking places, ingress/egress of the facility must be accessible (according to 4.1.1). Additionally, BP 344's IRR specifically stipulates minimum standards for the design and construction of facilities and equipment corresponding to each type of disability to ensure accessibility, usability and safety for persons with disabilities. Simultaneously, the physical infrastructure and the device must ensure that individuals, whether or not persons with disabilities can use, enjoy, and access such facilities as much as possible.
In Singapore, the Chapter 2 Code on accessibility in the built environment 2019  provides for the requirements that building owners and experts must meet to ensure that buildings and public spaces are friendly and inclusive In which, buildings, public spaces, hospitals, health care centres, clinics, and nursing homes must: (i) Sanitary facilities in patient/resident areas or residences must meet criteria and be supplied by the needs of the patient, the hospital, and their families; (ii) Hearing enhancement systems must be installed and provided; (iii) Braille signs for the Blind in hospital and clinic must be established; (iv) The area/floor in hospitals, health care centres, clinics, and nursing homes must ensure the persons with disabilities’ access. (v) Arrange the wheelchair parking lot location suitable and ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities, etc.
Moreover, numerous countries in the world already have regulations related to ensuring access to public works for persons with disabilities. The following countries are the representative:
In the USA, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)  in 1990 stipulated that public works or private works must meet the conditions that ensure that persons with disabilities can enjoy adequate services. In particular, private-public housing is prohibited from discriminating against persons with disabilities. No individual may be discriminated against based on disability in relation to the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities or accommodation of any public residence by any person who owns, rents or operates a public residence. All new construction (structure, modification or alteration) after the ADA entry date into force must comply fully with the ADA approach principle.
In China, Decree No. 622  of the People’s Republic of China has been established to create a difficulty-free environment for persons with disabilities so they can enjoy all things equally with everyone in social life. Accordingly, the People's Government above the district level is responsible for promoting plans, implementing constructions, and renovating facilities to ensure persons with disabilities access.
Hence, there are parallels in ensuring that persons with disabilities have access to both public and private works, even though different countries have varied economic conditions and different societies have distinct regulations. These are provisions that Viet Nam can refer to improve the policy and legislation in the draft of the Law on Persons with Disabilities.
According to the above analysis, the 2010 Law on Persons with Disabilities should be amended and supplemented in the following ways to ensure that people with disabilities have access to housing and public works:
First, specific regulations prohibiting the approval of new construction design, construction, testing, renovation and upgrades of condominiums, headquarters and technical infrastructure works do not comply with the national technical standards for construction in the Disability Law.
Secondly, stipulating the delegation of Government, Ministry of Finance and People's Councils, provincial and municipal committees under the central government should prioritize the annual central and local budget allocation to prioritize the renovation and upgrading of public works, construction transport infrastructure, and secure access to universal design.
Thirdly, expand the scope of public works regulations in Article 40 of the 2010 Law on Persons with Disabilities. In particular, it is necessary to ensure that manufacturing and business establishments (in both the public and private sectors) that employ persons with disabilities have accessible construction. In order to provide access to national building standards, the State also need a specific strategy of support for the renovation of small enterprises that employ employees with disabilities.
Fourth, establish a hotline for receiving reflections on issues related to persons with disabilities, which deliver particular priority to access to construction works and public transportation in the provinces. The hotline form should ensure access to persons with disabilities in all types of disabilities and different residential areas.
In conclusion, the current Law on Persons with Disabilities - the original law for specific persons with disabilities in Viet Nam, must be revised and supplemented for persons with disabilities themselves to integrate with the community and be barrier-free to accessing public works and apartments like non-disabled people. This is also a basis for, facilitating and promoting opportunities for community integration, learning and working for persons with disabilities in Viet Nam in the future./
 General Statistical Office, National Survey of Persons with Disabilities 2016 - Final Report, p. 159.
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