On Thursday, October 2, 2014, a Vietnamese delegation of leaders from their disability community visited the Minnesota State Council on Disability (MSCOD) office in St. Paul, Minnesota. This was one stop on their trip across the United States to meet with different organizations, build relationships, and share information about policies, practices, and laws concerning disability communities in both countries.
The meeting seemed too short as there was much to discuss. It began with the sharing of tea over cordial greetings as the Vietnamese delegation and MSCOD staff became acquainted. While not everyone spoke the same language, communication was effortless, part in thanks to a wonderful translator. MSCOD’s Margot Imdieke Cross spoke about the agency’s role in Minnesota and questions from the delegation began to flow; it was an effortless conversation. Upon hearing all that MSCOD is responsible for in Minnesota the Vietnamese delegation was surprised to learn there is only a staff of eight employees. MSCOD’s scope is broad, ranging from fielding calls and answering questions from members of the disability community to advising the Governor and State Legislature on disability policy.
The Vietnamese delegation was most interested in accessibility issues and what sorts of legal recourse the disability community has to enforce, protect, and progress the civil rights of people with disabilities. Another poignant question asked by the Vietnamese delegation was, “How many of MSCOD’s staff is disabled?” They were pleased to learn that the majority MSCOD’s staff has a disability. The Vietnamese delegation understands the importance of having people with disabilities at the table when making decisions that concern the disability community. This is a policy priority at MSCOD, and we were also glad to see that the majority of the Vietnamese delegation consisted of persons with disabilities.
The delegation heard from MSCOD staff on upcoming legislative initiatives as well as how the agency interacts with lawmakers and other State agencies. They were also interested in MSCOD’s planned activities surrounding the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In all, this was a fantastic learning experience for the MSCOD staff who was pleased to host the Vietnamese delegation in their only state capitol visit of their United States tour. MSCOD would like to thank Vietnam for sending such a gracious group of individuals and hopes to work with them and other members of the disability community around the world to progress the rights every person with a disability.