HANOI, April 17, 2013 -- It is my pleasure to join you to mark the 2013 Vietnamese Disabilities Day and talk about our joint efforts to encourage and support Vietnamese with disabilities.
Our support started in 1989 with the Patrick Leahy War Victims Fund, through which persons with disabilities throughout Vietnam received rehabilitative services, prosthetics and orthopedic support devices, and improved care through training of doctors and other health workers. The Fund also supported policy development leading to the Vietnam Disability Law and regulations to help people with disabilities access buildings, transportation and media through sign language and other measures. Senator Leahy and others in our Congress remain committed to support for people with disabilities. Over the decades since, we have made great progress together; today's event is one of many examples.
Let me start by talking about employment opportunities. In 2007, my predecessor helped launch the Blue Ribbon Employer Council -- BREC -- which then had 25 members. Today, BREC's expanding membership tops 160 local and international companies. Thanks to the efforts of BREC, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and USAID's partner, Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped, over 1,600 people with disabilities across Vietnam now have jobs.
Part of BREC's success comes from its diverse membership. Manufacturers such as PROTEC Helmets, Nike and their sub-contractors Chang-shin and Pouchen in Dong Nai have hired nearly 1,000 workers with disabilities. Other employers include hotels such as Melia and Sofitel Plaza, the French Hospital in Hanoi, fashion designers like CHULA, and many more.
Let me also acknowledge companies such as IBM for providing expertise to build disability information systems being implemented in several cities, and VCCI, VNAH, AMCHAM and others for supporting job fairs.
You have demonstrated that hiring persons with disabilities is not an act of charity - it shows strong corporate social responsibility and strengthens Vietnam's economy by hiring these capable workers in key industries.
I congratulate the winners and commend all of you who have promoted job opportunities for persons with disabilities. You, the awardees, are role models for employers everywhere.
The U.S. Government is likewise proud to promote marketable skills for people with disabilities in the IT sector through a separate education partnership with Catholic Relief Services and universities in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Danang. This USAID activity has helped 500 people with disabilities gain valuable skills and support Vietnam's expanding IT industry.
Our support does not end there - it extends beyond the workplace into homes and schools to promote greater social inclusion for people with disabilities.
And today, on the eve of the Vietnamese with Disabilities Day, I am delighted to publicly introduce USAID's Support to Persons with Disabilities Program. Like BREC, it will help find jobs for people with disabilities -- and do much more. It will assist people with corrective surgeries, physical therapy, assistive devices, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. It will provide vocational training and support to give children with disabilities equal access to education. It will also help raise the effectiveness and voice of disabled people's organizations through a small grants program. Over the coming three years, we will explore ways to strengthen public health systems related to birth defects and cancer surveillance to prevent and limit the severity of disabilities. We expect that 10,000 Vietnamese will benefit from this program.
We are pleased that our government partners under the new program from Binh Dinh, Da Nang, and Dong Nai provinces are with us, as well as our implementing partner DAI. Thank you all. We look forward to continuing this collective effort in these provinces and others in the coming years.
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Last updated: January 21, 2015