Methods: This multiple case-based study drew on in-depth interviews with 10 college students with visual impairments across Vietnam on their experiences of stigma at home and in college, and on extensive field notes and informal observations of participants. Five participants were male and five female between the age of 22 to 35 years. All were attending colleges in three main locations of Vietnam, namely Hanoi, Da Nang and Hochiminh City, and completed one to two hour long interviews with the main author. Thematic-style analyses were undertaken to identify dominant and emergent themes and meaning units.
Results: The study identified four main themes that reflected stigmatization that visually impaired students were facing: expressions of stigmatization, causes of stigmatization, impact of stigmatization on their lives, and coping strategies. First, stigmatization of visually impaired students can be illustrated by visible to subtle behaviors such as social isolation, undervaluing of their ability, denying access or rejecting their participation, labeling, and teasing. Also, it included different treatment based on gender and disability status. Second, this study found that stigmatizing visually impaired students was caused by lack of awareness of visual impairment from family, schools, friends, faculty members, and society. Third, stigmatization affected students’ well-being and their opportunities for education, employment and intimate life. Finally, students with visual impairments used several coping strategies, including self-adaption, self-negotiation, and self-advocacy.
Conclusions and Implications: Stigmatization of visually impaired students in Vietnam was shown to have both visible and subtle forms. It was largely caused by lack of awareness about visual impairments. It affected students’ psycho-social well-being and their opportunity to obtain education, employment and to achieve marriage. To help visually impaired individuals successfully integrate in the mainstream society, social workers can cooperate with colleges/universities to implement educational sessions to raise community’s awareness on issues of visual impairment. In terms of policy practices, the country could develop specific policies that aim to reduce stigmatization of visually impaired persons in education and employment. Finally, future studies should explore specific methods to prevent stigmatization of visually impaired persons in Vietnam and developing countries.