COUNTRY REPORT OF LAO ASSOCIATION OF THE BLIND 2014
Lao Association of the Blind is called briefly LAB has just celebrated the 7th anniversary of the organization on the 17th day of September 2014. With the winds beneath its wings from 2 European associations of the blind: Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted and Danish Association of the Blind; LAB is stronger gradually as we would like to praise their continuous supports and record them in the history of the association.
During this year LAB together with the Ministry of Education and Sports was registered to be the 6th member of ICEVI in the region of Asia-Pacific. LAB and the Ministry of Education and Sports have been working hard to strengthen the inclusive education for the blind and visually impaired students in Laos with the National Policy on Inclusive Education as well as the National Strategy and Action Plan on Inclusive Education 2011 to 2015 issued by the ministry mentioned. Through fabulous cooperation of the ministry, LAB created 14 sensitizing teachers from 2 primary schools, 2 secondary schools, 2 colleges and the National University of Laos with training in basic Orientation and Mobility, Daily Living Skills and Lao Braille. A number of teachers from those educational institutes providing inclusive education for the blind and officers from the Ministry of Education and Sports were supported with study tours in Thailand on the purpose to raise awareness of actual practices of the inclusive education and allow them to learn how to provide inclusive education in the neighboring country.
Moreover, with supports from ICEVI and coordination of the Christian Foundation for the Blind in Thailand in this year, at least 9 blind and visually impaired students from Laos were sent to Bangkok to be trained in ICT and all of them could get education at the higher level with notebook computers provided by ICEVI.
Through supports mentioned above and meeting after meeting with educational institutes, eventually students with visual disabilities have been allowed to study at colleges and the National University without costs of registration, tuition fee and dormitory.
LAB collaborated with organizations of disabilities performed many advocacy activities in the past few years that resulted the approval of the Prime Minister’s Decree on Disabilities as the decree has just been issued on the 18th day of April 2014. That was only the initial success; however, the activities will be continued in order to encourage the Government to actively execute the decree.
Through the supports of Danish Association of the Blind and Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted, LAB kept on performing community based rehabilitation activities. The Learning Project provided for a number of staff and members of LAB by Danish Association of the Blind and good plan synchronized perfectly and supported LAB with lessons learned from experiences of organizations of the blind such as Ghana, Nepal, Bangladesh, etc. The learning workshop empowered LAB with knowledge and techniques for implementing its community based rehabilitation activities in 3 target provinces: Xiengkhouang, Luangprabang and Champassak as well as Vientiane Capital systematically. People with visual impairments who were identified through surveys got educational, vocational and physical rehabilitations properly.
During 2013-2014, the rehabilitations allowed 12 blind and visually impaired children to have access to education at 2 blind schools in Vientiane Capital, supported 38 blind and partially sighted adults with vocational training and around 450 people with permanent blindness were supported with training in Orientation and Mobility as well as Daily Living Skills.
In 2013 with magnificent hardship of Duxbury Team in the United States of America, Lao Duxbury Program was developed and in 2014 it assisted LAB to produce nearly 100 Braille books more conveniently. In addition, US Embassy to Laos also approved an application for small grant that enabled LAB to create a voice synthesis program for all people who have visual problems. During 2014-2015, with collaboration of the E-Government Center under the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication of Laos and NECTEC, an ICT institute in Thailand which produced Thai NVDA ogram, it is anticipated that LAB will be able to distribute Lao NVDA program to beneficiaries throughout the country via a free download website by mid 2015.