SESSION X: DISCUSSION ON THE INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Information and communication technology is one of the fields that is becoming increasingly important globally as well as in Vietnam today. Particularly for persons with disabilities, the benefits from information technology as well as access to the media will contribute to supporting persons with disabilities to work, study, and integrate into society. Recognizing the importance of information and communication technology for persons with disabilities, international law in general and Vietnamese law, in particular, have specific regulations to support persons with disabilities to access information and communication technology.
Current regulations on information and communication technology for persons with disabilities
Under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), countries are committed to ensuring that persons with disabilities can exercise freedom of expression and political freedom, providing accessible information to persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others. Simultaneously, the Convention also encourages and adopts policies to support and develop information and communication technologies for persons with disabilities (clause 1, Article 4, clause 1 and 2 Article 9, Article 21).
As a signatory to the Convention, Vietnam has formalised the following commitments in the 2010 Law on persons with disabilities and associated legislative documents:
First, Article 43 on the information technology and communication of the 2010 Law on Persons with Disabilities affirmed: The State encourages agencies, organizations, enterprises and individuals operating in information technology to apply and develop information technology reserved for persons with disabilities; Mass media agencies have the responsibility to cover the material and spiritual life of persons with disabilities. Also, the State shall adopt policies on tax exemption and reduction, concessional loans and other supports for research into, manufacture or production of equipment, provision of services and supply of equipment to enable persons with disabilities to access information technology and communication: and support the collection, compilation and publication of documents printed in Braille for persons with visual disabilities, reading documents for persons with sensory and intellectual disabilities.
Second, in the 2016 Law on Access to Information, one of the basic principles of Law is to ensure that all citizens are equal, without discrimination in the exercise of access to information.
The Government grants favourable opportunities for the disabled and those who reside in border regions, islands, mountainous regions, and areas faced with challenging social and economic conditions to practice their right to access to information. (clause 6, Article 3).
In the case of information disclosure, in addition to the forms of information disclosure specified in the law, state agencies must determine methods of information disclosure in conformity with access to information capacity and conditions of citizens who are disabled and residents in border regions, islands, mountainous regions… (clause 3, Article 18).
In the case of on-demand information providing, government agencies should also take steps to assist persons with disabilities and illiteracy, such as filling out the Information request form. Information-providing agencies are responsible for diversifying forms and methods of providing information following the accessibility of information requesters; arranging audio-visual equipment and ancillary equipment suitable to the type and degree of disability following practical conditions of the agency; giving priority to providing information to persons with disabilities under the law on access to information and the law on PWDs
The Law on Access to Information also stipulates that the right of access to information is guaranteed for the target group who are people who have lost their civil act capacity, people with difficulties in cognition and behaviour control, and people under 18 years of age. Accordingly, these subjects exercise the right to access information through their legal representatives or guardians, unless otherwise provided by relevant laws (clauses 2 and 3, Article 4).
Third, Circular 26/2020/TT-BTTTT of the Ministry of Information and Communication stipulates the application of standards and technologies to assist PWD in accessing and using information and communication products and services has specific provisions on:: List of criteria (Article 3); regulations for licensed journalism agencies for broadcasting and broadcasting activities (Article 4); regulations for portal sites/electronic portals/public service portals (Article 5).
In addition, on August 5, 2020, the Prime Minister issued Decision No. 1190/QD-TTg approving the program to assist PWD in the 2021-2030 period. The goal is that by 2030, the percentage of PWD who can access and use information technology and communication services is at least one-third of the national rate.
It can be observed that the 2010 Law on PWD and several other important legislative papers have essentially been focused on safeguarding PWD rights to information and communication technology, but there are still certain limits that must be addressed.
Some limitations and inadequacies from legal regulations and recommendations for perfect solutions
Firstly, the regulation on access to information in the 2010 Law on PWD is not comprehensive and lacks synchronization with the current policy on access to information.
Regulations on information and communication technology for PWD in Article 43 of the 2010 Law on Persons with Disabilities now focus on developing a system of "communication tools" suitable for PWD. Not to mention the issue of the rights of PWD to be guaranteed to provide information that must be made public and other information as prescribed by law following their ability and access conditions. Meanwhile, the 2016 Law on Access to Information stipulates: “All citizens are treated equally and not discriminated in exercising their right of access to information” and “The Government grants favourable opportunities for the disabled and those who reside in border regions, islands, mountainous regions, areas faced to challenging social and economic conditions to practice their right of access to information.” (clause1, clause 6, Article 3). As a "specialist" law regulating basic policies on PWD, this is considered an inadequacy that needs to be overcome in the information and communication technology policy of the 2010 Law on PWD 2010 compared with applicable laws.
To overcome the above inadequacies, it is necessary to supplement the provisions on information and communication technology in the Law on PWD with the content of equal rights and guaranteed access to information and communication following relevant regulations. appropriate to the actual ability, disability type and degree of disability of the disabled person. Specifically, the content of Clause 4, Article 43 of the 2010 Law on PWD is added as follows:
"4. Persons with disabilities are equal to other subjects in access to information and communication, especially information that is required to be disclosed following the law. The State guarantees access to information and communication technology under the actual ability, form and degree of disability."
Secondly, technology standards to assist persons with disabilities are not effective
In Circular 26/2020/TT-BTTTT, the regulations on the application of standards and technologies to support the access and use of products, information and communication services are encouraging and not specific, thus not yet effective.
Referring to the activity in Singapore, in the Many Helping Hands Approach (MHHA) strategy, the Government and "people, businesses, community organizations, religious groups, and family members" have joined hands in assisting PWD access information and communication technology, specifically: (1) In terms of facilities: For families who cannot afford to buy computers or subscribe to the Internet broadband, the NEU Computer Supply Program will provide low-income students and PWD the opportunity to own a new computer with Internet access subscription at a discounted price; (2) About improving the understanding of PWD: The International Communication Association (IAC) has established training courses on information technology for PWD; (3) Regarding international cooperation: The Singapore government has actively coordinated with multiple international and domestic organizations to expand access to information for PWD, such as the APECTEL project in 2012. “Application of information and communication technology for people with special needs”.
It can be seen that aiming to overcome some of the limitations in the current legal provisions, besides supplementing the Law on Persons with Disabilities, regulations on encouraging businesses, organizations and agencies, especially the presses shall add a separate section for PWD on its website, the websites of state agencies, administrative procedures, etc. must be updated with information for the disabled. Application of accessible technology for PWD, such as reading software for people with visual impairments, videos with sign language subtitles for people with hearing and speaking disabilities, etc. In practical activities, through the experience of Singapore and current PWD projects in Viet Nam, it is necessary to continue to implement and expand activities on facility improvement, knowledge of information and communication technology for the PWD, such as computer discounted schools, providing internet services, free information technology training courses for the disabled, etc.
Thus, to contribute to improving access to information and communication technology for the disabled, the Law on Persons with disabilities should have additional specific regulations aimed at eliminating barriers, providing a basis for integrating communities, self-improvement, economic autonomy, and contributing to the country's development.
 AITA, “Singapore's experience in promoting participation in e-government (last part)”, available at: