In September 2017, Lao Association of the Blind celebrated the 10th anniversary of the organization. During 2015-2018, LAB has been performing community based rehabilitation activities continually that could identify more new members as follows: in 2016 it had 1,752 members, in 2017 the number of members became 2,051 and during the first half of this year, the number of members rose to 2,072.
As the result of traditional massage training, LAB has been creating a lot of professional masseurs and masseuses causing market problems in Vientiane Capital inadvertently. LAB presently turns to support young BVI kids with education at the upper level as in this year after the academic year is open, there will be 26 BVI students studying at the National University of Laos with scholarships from the Ministry of Education and Sports. Currently the text-to-speech program for the inclusive education is under upgrading in Thailand supported by the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center.
Since the beginning of 2014, LAB and the Ministry of Education and Sports of Lao PDR have been working hard to strengthen the inclusive education for the blind and visually impaired students in Laos with the National Policy, Strategy and Action Plan on Inclusive Education (2011-2015), this is easily called the “Red Book” and after 2015 the Red Book was amended and approved by the Ministry as the extension called the National Strategy and Plan of Action Framework (2016-2020) or the “Red Book II”.
Through the effective collaboration between LAB and the Inclusive Education Center under the Ministry of Education during 2017; LAB provided IT training courses serving 22 blind and partially sighted students. Among these 22 IT trainees, 17 of them were ready for the inclusive education at the National University of Laos with upgraded educational approach at the higher level relevant to requirement of the Red Book II. LAB also supported 2 young children with access to education at the Home of Light, a blind school attached to the National Ophthalmology Center in Thongpong, Vientiane Capital. LAB also kept on supporting inclusive education for 8 blind and visually impaired students in Savannakhet Province.
Moreover, through the request of the National University of Laos and the Ministry of Education and Sports, LAB provided a refreshment training course in orientation and mobility for 17 students with visual impairments studying at the National University. The training made the students become familiar with places and ways inside and outside the university and helped them to fix and remember landmarks leading to places around; in some instances: classrooms, canteens, dormitories, central library, restaurants, shopping centers, conference hall, bus stops, etc. Most of these students also got access to Braille textbooks produced by LAB.
In 2017, LAB supported 10 fieldworkers to make surveys with visual acuity test; 4 in a rural district in Vientiane Capital and 6 in 3 target provinces: Luangprabang, Xiengkhouang and Champassak. Blind and partially sighted people in the areas were identified and supported with rehabilitation. Training in orientation and mobility was conducted for people with permanent blindness; young children were sent to the blind school in Vientiane Capital called Home of Light; youths and middle-aged people were given opportunity to get vocational training and poor adults and aged people in villages were supported with small-scale funds for raising animals. Some people with visual problems in Vientiane Capital were referred to the Eye Hospital in Thongpong, Vientiane Capital and some of them in 3 target provinces mentioned above were supported with transportation to ophthalmic centers attached to provincial hospitals for exhaustive examination and treatments according to the actual needs.
Through advocacy activities performed by LAB, one special school for the deaf in Luangprabang Province established by the Catholic Church has been transferred to be under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Sports where LAB will have to provide sufficient space for BVI students over there. At this moment, LAB is making its best endeavors to convince the Education Department of Savannakhet Province to be accountable to the special and inclusive education for all BVI students in the province and neighboring provinces.
In 2014, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare approved the Prime Minister’s Decree on People with Disabilities and this instrument led to the approval of the National Strategic and Action Plans on People with Disabilities; this legislation currently is under determination of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare expecting to be officially approved in October 2018.
From 2016 to 2018, LAB has been working on disseminating the contents of UN-CRPD so as to create more self-advocates throughout the country. Training after training in advocacy has been giving information to old and new BVI members supporting them with perception of their rights and interests.