Authorities, businesses reluctant about wheelchair-friendly buses

Thanh Nien News

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One of only a few buses that provides access for disabled passengers in Ho Chi Minh City / FILE PHOTO
A draft decree from the Ministry of Transport has instructed local buses to install wheelchair-friendly systems by January 2017, but local officials and bus owners have hesitated to make the change.
A representative of the Department of Transport in the northern province of Thai Nguyen said modifying a normal seat to fit a wheelchair user is a major design change that will cost bus owners money and time.
The official was speaking at a recent meeting between the ministry and representatives of local transport departments and companies in the northern region to discuss the draft on Friday, Lao Dong (Labor) newspaper reported.
The report quoted Nguyen Van Thanh from the Vietnam Automobile Transportation Association as telling the meeting that it was “not simple” to satisfy the new requirement.
He said it is “impossible” that all public vehicles will have seats for disabled people using wheelchairs.
The change should be applied to a certain number of buses, and transport companies should inform people of which buses and routes the seats are available on, Thanh said.
Many representatives also opined that instead of requiring current buses to modify their seats, the ministry should impose the rule only on new buses, according to the report.
They suggested the ministry allow current vehicles to apply flexible measures like drivers and their assistants helping disabled passengers get on the bus and choosing seats for them like they do now.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Hoang Linh, vice director of the Hanoi Department of Transport, asked the ministry to lay out a specific timeline for companies to follow the rule, because it demands a lot of them, from providing not only seats but also access for the disabled and places for them to put their wheelchairs.
In response to the reluctance of officials and businesses, Deputy Transport Minister Le Dinh Tho said it is a “very simple” job and it should not take long because wheelchairs can be folded so they do not take up space, and just a few seats need modifying.
When there are no disabled people around, other passengers can use their seats, so the change will not affect the number of passengers that a bus can carry, Tho said.
The deputy minister also said that with Vietnam’s current technology, it is “absolutely not difficult” to change the bus seats’ design.
Official figures from the General Statistics Office showed that disabled people accounted for 7.8 percent of Vietnam’s population, or some 6.7 million people, as of 2009.

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