Visually Impaired Association Trains Rangoon Bus Workers

By Tin Htet Paing 27 June 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s national association for visually impaired people held a training workshop on Friday for the Rangoon Division Motor Vehicles Supervisory Committee—known locally by the Burmese language acronym Ma Hta Tha—to address barriers faced by blind and visually impaired people in the city’s antiquated transportation system.

The Myanmar National Association of the Blind (MNAB) on Friday delivered the one-day workshop to 140 bus conductors and drivers operating under Ma Hta Tha, according to the association’s director, Hkawn Nu.

It was the second interaction between MNAB and Ma Hta Tha, the first being in December last year, said Hkawn Nu.

“We explained to the trainees why visually impaired persons need to travel and how to help them use public transport,” she told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

“We showed them how to take blind persons into buses from bus stops, how to help them get off at the right bus stops and how to communicate with them effectively without unnecessary burden, among other things,” Hkawn Nu.

Authorities and policymakers should also be aware that difficulties regarding access to public transportation harm the visually impaired population, she said.

“The concept of keeping blind persons inside houses and not letting them go outside is still prevalent in our society,” she said. “Such attitudes need to be changed.”

Hla Aung, chairperson of Ma Hta Tha, told The Irrawaddy that the committee is keen to encourage such training for bus conductors and drivers

“After the first training [last December], we observed some positive improvement in our staff helping visually impaired passengers,” he said.

However, he explained that the committee’s employees need more frequent practical trainings so that they are able to more skillfully provide services to these passengers.

According to the 2014 national census, out of Burma’s population of around 51.5 million, 4.6 percent suffer from at least one type of disability, and 2.5 percent suffer from visual impairment.

A new law on the rights of persons with disabilities was enacted in June 2015, abolishing the 1958 Disabled Persons Employment Act.