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Higher Education Project – Update 2016

The Higher Education project supported by The Nippon Foundation commenced in Indonesia in 2006-2007. Based on the positive outcomes of the evaluation, the project was extended to the Philippines and Vietnam in 2008, Cambodia in 2010, Myanmar in 2013 and Laos PDR in 2014. The broad objective of the project was to make higher education institutions inclusive and also develop the performance of students with visual impairment by training them adequately in using technology. This work has resulted in significant increases in access to university education and during 2015-16, 177 additional students were benefitted by the Higher Education programme. The total beneficiaries since the commencement of the project in 2006-2007 are 2,142.
The project cycle 2015 – 2018 listed the following as the key objectives of the project:

  • Continued attention to the existing programme to increase the enrolment of students in higher education institutions and provide them necessary IT skills to enhance their performance.
  • Increased attention to advocacy and public policy with universities and with the key government agencies.
  • Expanding student admissions and increasing access to a wider variety of courses of study pursued by visually impaired students beyond traditional studies in the humanities.
  • Attention to better preparing higher education students for the world of work with increased numbers gainfully employed in jobs commensurate with their education.

In response to the above key objectives, the project partners implemented relevant activities and following are some of the key achievements during the first year (2015-16) of the current project cycle.

Cumulative Enrolment Data

The enrolment of 2015-16 and the cumulative data since 2006-07 are presented below, which reveal the trend in the growth of the higher education programme.

Country 2006 - 2007 2006 - 2011 2006 – 2014 2006 – 2015 2015 - 2016 Cumulative 2006 – 2016
Students Enrolled

Key Highlights during 2015-16

Key highlights of the project are summarized below:

Meeting of the ICEVI President and Chairman, The Nippon Foundation:

On 24th November, ICEVI President Lord Colin Low met with Mr Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, at the House of Lords. The Nippon Foundation has generously supported ICEVI’s Higher Education project based in South East Asia for the last 10 years, and Lord Low took the opportunity to express ICEVI’s heartfelt appreciation for this support.

Mr Sasakawa spoke about how honoured he was to be in London to receive an award, the recent successes on combatting leprosy, a particular passion of his (a UN resolution and news of the last country to achieve elimination - Brazil) and his commitment to supporting vulnerable, including disabled people. He also spoke with obvious commitment about his work in Myanmar, where he has been given a commission by the government to help to promote peace in that country. Mr. Sasakawa also spoke about the work of the Nippon foundation in Africa, and asked to be kept up to date about progress ICEVI made in this region.

Award to the Nippon Foundation:

The Nippon Foundation was given a special award at the Regional Conference of ICEVI East Asia region held at Bali, Indonesia from 28 September to 1st October 2015. The award was presented to The Nippon Foundation in grateful recognition of their support and partnership in expanding educational access and full inclusion of blind and low vision persons in the East Asia Region. Mr. Suichi Ono, Executive Director of the Nippon Foundation received the award and delivered a special address.

Meeting of the Coordinators of Higher Education:

A meeting of the Coordinators of higher education was organized in Bali on 27th September in conjunction with the ICEVI East Asia regional conference. Members agreed to exchange expertise among the partner organisations especially in preparing visually impaired students in pre-employment and soft skills.

Orientation of Universities:

All the partners’ organizations conducted orientation programmes for university administrators during the 2015-16 project year.

Video Documentation of Job Experiences in Philippines:

The Resources for the Blind developed videos highlighting the job experiences of visually impaired persons and these will be used for training purposes. ICEVI will also post these videos on its website for wider dissemination.

Soft Skills Training:

Soft skills training programmes were conducted by project partners in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Philippines. These countries have been sharing experiences on the most effective approaches as they work with the curriculum on soft skills training outlined by a core committee in the region.

Job Placement:

The higher education partners focussed on job placement through individual contacts and job fairs and placed over 110 visually impaired persons in employment.

TTS Development in Myanmar:

The Burmese Text-to-Speech (TTS) beta version developed by MNAB and the Solve Circle Solutions technical team was launched on 3 December 2015, the International Day of the Disabled at the ceremony hosted by the Ministry of Social Welfare in the capital city of Nay Pyi Taw.

Scholarship Programme for Higher Education in Laos:

The National University of Laos has developed a scholarship program to support students with visual impairment who wish to enrol in higher education. We are confident that this initiative will do much to motivate students currently enrolled in secondary education to consider pursing higher education.

Efforts to Formulate Decree on Higher Education:

The project partners were asked to emulate the experiences of our partner in Indonesia, Pertuni, which played a vital role in the formulation of a Decree on Higher Education in Indonesia that enabled all higher education institutions in the country to become inclusive. The ICEVI-TNF Higher education project purports to influence similar legislative measures through its partners in the participating countries.
The 2015-16 project year has been yet another one full of significant achievement for the higher education programme. Many of the students currently enrolled in secondary and higher education have indicated that they have been motivated by achievements of prior project beneficiaries in their own communities. In short, the ICEVI-The Nippon Foundation higher education programme is having an impact at many levels from early intervention to the creation of gainful employment opportunities.

Brief profiles of Partner Institutions

Krousar Thmey, Cambodia

Created in the refugee camps at the border with Thailand in 1991, Krousar Thmey (“New Family” in Khmer) is the first Cambodian foundation supporting underprivileged children. It is a non-political and non-religious organisation. Since its creation, Krousar Thmey, aims at enable the integration of underprivileged and disabled children through education and appropriate support in accordance with their traditions and beliefs. Website:http://

Pertuni (Indonesian Blind Association), Indonesia

Pertuni is a national blind member based organization in Indonesia and it has its chapters in 33 provinces and branches in 210 cities/districts throughout Indonesia. The Pertuni plays an important role in lobbying for the rights of persons with visual impairment. For the period of 2015-2019, Pertuni elected Mrs. Aria Indrawati, as its first female president. Website:

Myanmar National Association of the Blind (MNAB), Myanmar

The Myanmar National Association of the Blind (MNAB) was formed in 1996 by over 100 visually impaired persons. In 2013, it became a legislative organization with the recognition by the Government. International bodies including ICEVI, Overbrook School for the Blind, The Nippon Foundation and the Danish Association of the Blind are supporting various activities of the MNAB. Website:http://

Resources for the Blind, Inc., Philippines

RBI was started in the Philippines in 1988 with a goal to develop and implement programs that will remove the hindrances, and to provide services, training, materials, and equipment needed in order for those who have visual impairment to reach their fullest potential in life. The main office is in Cubao, Quezon City, with two regional offices in Cebu City and Davao City, which serve the central and southern Philippines, respectively. Website:

Sao Mai Vocational & Assistive Technology Center for the Blind, Vietnam

Sao Mai Vocational & Assistive Technology Centre for the Blind was established in 2001 with the main goal of promoting the usage of assistive technology in education and employment of persons with visual impairment. The Centre has also offered consultancy to other organisations in assistive technology. Website:

National University of Laos (NUOL), Lao PDR

Founded in 1996, the National University of Laos is located in Vientiane. The University has many Faculties specialising in humanities, science, management, etc., the higher education program for persons with visual impairment comes under the Faculty of Letters. The program also collaborates with the Laos Association of the Blind (LAB) which focuses on advocacy, education, networking, etc., to empower persons with visual impairment.

Higher Education Programme – New Project Cycle (2015 - 2018)


Based upon needs identified in a research study conducted in its East and West Asia regions, the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI), with support from The Nippon Foundation (TNF) undertook a pilot project to improve and expand access of higher education for blind students enrolled in universities in Jakarta and Bandung in 2007. The evaluation conducted near the end of year one was so gratifying that TNF encouraged ICEVI to expand this initiative to other areas of Indonesia and to the Philippines and Vietnam in 2008, Cambodia in 2010 and Myanmar in 2013. Over the past six (6) years a solid base has been established that has addressed such identified needs as: providing training and assistive technology that allows the blind students access to course materials in a much more timely manner; increasing production of course materials in accessible formats and peer counseling and special short courses to prepare blind students for their entry into the university.

This work has resulted in dramatic increases in access to university education by qualified blind students ranging from a low of 154% in Indonesia to a high of nearly 600% in the Philippines as well as an expansion in the number of universities that are enrolling qualified blind persons.

While these results are gratifying, all involved with this initiative are acutely aware of the many remaining challenges that need and will be addressed by the next phase of this project between 2015 and 2018. Specifically these are:

1) Expansion to underserved geographic regions in the existing four countries and to one or two additional countries in the region;
2) Expanding access to allow blind students to study in any academic area for which they are qualified; with special attention to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics);
3) Developing linkages that result in a more effective transition of blind students from higher education to gainful employment.
4) Achieving sustainable change by impacting public attitudes and public policies concerning higher education for all persons with disabilities.

Concise description of the expected outcome of the project, including specific numbers, where possible:
1) The project will open opportunities for an estimated 820 additional visually impaired students to pursue higher education during the period 2015-2018.
2) Over the three year period the project will create an estimated ninety (90) additional inclusive universities accepting visually impaired students for the first time.
3) The project will organize awareness creation activities aimed at changing the attitudes of a wide range of groups within: 3.1 universities, 3.2 local and national governments and 3.3 the public-at-large, reaching more than 100,000 persons over the 3 year project period.
4) The project will demonstrate that the existing environments of the higher education institutions can and will have been made more disability friendly.
5) The project will prepare a cadre of trainers in each of the countries skilled in developing linkages between higher education and gainful employment.
6) The project will result in positive changes in the policy formulation within higher education institutions resulting in increased access to all disabled students.
7) The project will develop and disseminate specialized training materials to share best practice in the inclusion of disabled students in higher education that will be of use both within and beyond the countries participating in this network.

Project Outline
Explains the project outline; its contents, location, schedule of activities, targeted beneficiaries, and how the project will be conducted.

To build upon achievements to date, the project would continue improving and expanding access for qualified visually impaired students to all areas of education through:
1) Equal access to all learning materials and all areas of academic pursuit,
2) Enhanced awareness on the needs and capabilities of visually impaired students,
3) Improved university and other public policies concerning equal access as defined in Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD),
4) Increased access to appropriate employment through the establishment of effective linkages between visually impaired students enrolled in higher education and
5) Internship opportunities and special programs for placement centers and employers.

The project will be implemented in
Cambodia – Phnom Penh, Battam Bang
Indonesia – Jakarta, Bandung, Solo, Makassar, Jog Jakarta, Semarang, Padang, Payakumbuh and Medan
The Philippines – Manila, Cadiz, Davao and Pangasinan
Vietnam – Hanoi, Ho Chi Min City, and Danang
Myanmar – Yangon and Mandalay
Laos – Vientiane

Schedule of activities:
In each country there is a local “lead organization” as mentioned in the section above. This organization, in consultation with blind and visually impaired students, universities and governments determines specific national priorities. While these priorities vary from country-to-country, all will focus on improving and expanding access to higher education. The ICEVI Higher Education Network then provides specific opportunities for exchanges between the countries so that they can learn from and support each other. During the grant period covered by this application, each country will organize orientation programs for the staff of higher education institutions where the program is to be implemented and increase the number of inclusive universities accepting and supporting students with visual impairments.

While the existing student support centers established during the first phase of the project will be put to optimum use, the nature of new student support services is likely to be different as more affordable and portable technologies are allowing for greater levels of inclusion by visually impaired students use access tools in the same places as their sighted counterparts do.

Targeted Beneficiaries:
An estimated 820 visually impaired beneficiaries will be reached by the project over a three year period. This will include 150 blind students and 7,500 non-disabled students, university staff members and policy makers in Indonesia, 305 students and over 2,000 faculty members and university administrators in the Philippines, 330 students and over 1,000 faculty members and administrators in Vietnam, 20 students and over 200 university faculty in Myanmar and approximately 15 students and over 200 university faculty and administrators in Cambodia. We are unable at this time to project the number of beneficiaries in Laos until a situation analysis is completed during the first year of the project period.

How the project will be conducted?
Over the past few years this project has established a record upon which we will build. During the upcoming year we will rely on partner universities already committed to inclusion to expand the network. A major strategy in all countries will be to utilize those universities that have become more inclusive to mentor other universities that have not yet accepted student with disabilities. This strategy will be employed in our efforts to significantly expand the number of inclusive universities, particularly in underserved regions of each country.

Having reached more than 1,000 visually impaired students during the initial phase of this project, at least two of the countries (Indonesia and Vietnam) plan during the upcoming year to create formal organizations of blind students. [NOTE: The Philippines has already created such an organization using social marketing tools.] These student organizations will be trained to speak-up for their own needs and rights and to, among other things, expand the number of academic areas where visually impaired students are allowed to study.

The Philippines will pay particular attention to expanding curriculum access to the S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) areas of the university offerings. In this effort we hope to involve a well known, retired university professor from Japan in developing materials, in collaboration with Filipino colleagues, to support this area of the project work. The lessons learned in the Philippines can then be shared with the other countries within the network and beyond.

Finally, it was noted at our last regional advisory meeting that all countries share a common concern regarding the challenges that blind university graduates face in seeking gainful employment that is commensurate with their education. We plan during the coming phase to develop in each country a cadre of trainers capable of helping visually impaired students to better prepare themselves for employment by 1) promoting internships and work experience programs while they are still at the university, 2) working with university placement offices where they exist, 3) providing “soft-skills training” as preparation for the process of seeking employment and 4) by networking with other initiatives that support transition from university to employment such as the Inclusive Business initiative being developed at the APCD Foundation and the possible initiative The Nippon Foundation is discussing with the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

The project is currently developing a series of public education and specialized videos that are suitable for use in each country and from which raw footage can be developed into a tool that can share lessons learned and be disseminated well beyond the countries directly benefitting from this initiative. In each country special events will be organized to assure that the work of the project is communicated to the general public via newspapers, magazine, radio and TV. Vietnam alone has set a target of 200 newspapers, magazines, TV and radio broadcasts over the next three years to share information and expand understanding of the capabilities and talents of blind individuals. The results of the project will also be shared in national, regional, and international events organized by ICEVI and other regional and global organizations. At the end of the project period, a comprehensive report highlighting accomplishments and lessons learned will be prepared and disseminated to higher education institutions in the participating countries and to organizations with a view to affecting institutional changes in higher education policy related to students with disabilities.



ICEVI - The Nippon Foundation Higher Education Employment Videos

Media Interview with Dang Hoai Phuc, ICEVI-The Nippon Foundation Higher Education Project Coordinator, Vietnam

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AFPB - Asian Foundation for the Prevention of Blindness CBM - CBM International NABPS - Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted Perkins ONCE SSI - Sight Savers International Vision Australia