Governance and Participation – A Series of Policy Discussion Papers: Pilot Assessment of Disability Inclusion in Local Governance

Surveys done by UNDP in the past two years have shown the tremendous effects that COVID-19 has on persons with disability (PWDs) in multiple aspects such as employment, income, access to basic needs and rehabilitation services, etc. This situation requires great efforts from the Government in providing public services to support PWDs to overcome the consequences caused by COVID-19 and at the same time help PWDs access public services and participate in the monitoring and decision-making of local authorities more easily. Easy access to public services and completion of public administrative procedures are also prerequisites for PWDs to integrate into the locality while minimizing consequences caused by natural disasters and pandemics in the future.

However, the level of satisfaction in using public services and participating in local governance of PWDs has not been recorded in the Viet Nam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI). Therefore, in July 2022, UNDP collaborated with the Mekong Development Research Institute to conduct a pilot assessment of the inclusion of PWDs in local governance to supplement the annual PAPI Index with indicators on the inclusion of PWDs from PWDs’ perspectives. Through this survey, PWDs can reflect on the quality of local governance, public service delivery, and the attitude of officials and civil servants when working with PWDs in the locality.

This report presents the results of a pilot telephone survey of 1,627 PWDs from 6 different types of  disabilities randomly selected from a list of more than 19,000 PWDs provided by UNDP. As a pilot study with certain limitations in the sample set, the survey results are not representative of PWDs nationwide. However, the findings from the quantitative survey as well as the in-depth interviews of the study have provided some remarkable results, which can be used as a basis for further research. Specifically:

On PWDs’ participation at the local level

The level of participation in social organizations/groups of PWDs is still modest, with only 34.4% of PWDs involved in at least one social organization/group. The proportion of male PWDs participating in social organizations/groups is higher than that of female PWDs. Persons with Hearing and Speech, Intellectual, Mental and psychiatric disabilities have significantly lower levels of participation in social associations/groups than the other groups.

The rate of PWDs who do not participate in the elections of People’s Councils and National Assembly deputies in May 2021 is quite high, at 47.1%. Voting participation of PWDs continues to show disparities in gender, types of disabilities, and severity of disabilities. The two biggest factors hindering PWDs from participating in elections are the ability to get to the polling place and access to information about the election, with 27.7% of PWDs sharing that they did not vote because they could not get to the polling place by themselves and 24.3% reported that they were not informed about the election.
Regarding accessing information in general, the survey results show that Hearing and Speech, Intellectual, Mental and Psychiatric are the major disability groups which reported not being able to easily access information through any form (27.5%, 28.1%, and 30.7%, respectively). Regarding the adequacy of information from the different forms accessible to PWDs, sign language and Braille are two forms reported by PWDs to be
more inadequate / scarce than other forms.  Meanwhile, information sources in the form of text on computers/phones/technical devices are considered by many PWDs as Adequate/Perfectly adequate (58.7%).

On PWDs’ inclusion in public administrative procedures

The rate of certification has not yet covered all eligible PWDs, with the proportion of respondents who already have a disability certificate accounting for only 68%. Common barriers to obtaining a disability certification as perceived by PWDs relate mainly to the lack of clear guidelines for the certification/revocation process: 18.7% of PWDs reported not knowing the necessary procedures for applying for a disability certificate; 18.1% of PWDs ‘Had applied at commune/ward/township committee but had not been processed’.
The need for local public administration procedures of PWDs is similar to that of the general population, but PWDs still face many difficulties in carrying out the procedures themselves, especially the group with Hearing and Speech disabilities. The use of e-portals for administrative procedures is not yet widespread, with only 2.9% of PWDs or
their guardians/caretakers having used this service, due to the lack of information dissemination to PWDs and/or the lack of technology skills.
On PWDs’ inclusion in public services 42.4% of PWDs reported that public transport in their locality is not easy to use. In addition, 24% of PWDs cannot tell if the local public transport is easy to use or not, largely because they have never used it.
The district-level hospital services were evaluated quite well by PWDs in terms of attitudes of the service providers (89.9% of PWDs rated it well), medical examination and treatment costs (86.9% of PWDs assessed it as reasonable), and waiting time (79.3% of PWDs do not have to wait long for medical examination). However, hospital  infrastructure (elevators, toilets, wheelchair ramps, etc.) needs to be more PWDs-friendly.
Notably, PWDs are most interested in mental health services among other public services: 37.8% of PWDs chose mental health care as a service that needs to be prioritized for investment by the government in the next five years.
The above results show that there are still many barriers for PWDs in general in participating in sociopolitical activities, carrying out administrative procedures, and using public services such as public transport, public facilities, and health services. Deep-diving in the issues, persons with hearing and speech, intellectual, mental and psychiatric disabilities are the groups that face particular difficulties and are most often left behind compared to other groups.

From the above results, the research team proposes the following recommendations:
● In terms of policies, it is important for the government to have appropriate support and investment in inclusive infrastructure/facilities so that PWDs can participate in socio-political activities as well as carry out public administrative procedures as others. Simultaneously, PWDs also need to have full access to information sources and be equipped with the knowledge and skills to use those facilities. In particular, policies on the inclusion of PWDs should fully pay attention to the characteristics and needs of each group of different types of disabilities to
ensure that no group is left behind, especially persons with hearing and speech, intellectual, mental and psychiatric disabilities.
Further research on PWDs should focus on more representative sampling and explore topics such as mental health, rights to property, PWDs’ political participation, the intersection of gender and disability, etc. more deeply.

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