Accessible Infrastructure: Working together to promote the participation of persons with disabilities in the community

Accessible Infrastructure: Working together to promote the participation of persons with disabilities in the community

Mr Connor Floyd, Second Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Cambodia, in his welcome remark to participants of the training of trainers (ToT) on Technical Standards on Physical Accessibility for persons with disabilities, emphasised the importance of enabling environments to facilitate the access of persons with disabilities to a variety of services. He stated that accessible infrastructure would enable active participation of persons with disabilities, including children, to better access education, vocational training courses, job opportunities, and other critical services. He further mentioned that physical accessibility also benefits older people and people with moderate/severe health conditions, pregnant women, and can assist parents pushing baby strollers.

The Australian Government, through the Australia-Cambodia Cooperation for Equitable Sustainable Services (ACCESS) Program, supported the three-day ToT, which commenced on 30 May 2022 and was jointly organised by the Disability Action Council Secretariat General (DAC-SG) and Humanity & Inclusion. It aimed to provide capacity building to Organisation of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), NGOs, and government officials to become national trainers on the subject of physical accessibility infrastructure.

H.E Em Chan Makara, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) and Secretary-General of DAC, stated in his address to the ToT that persons with disabilities had equal rights as others, including the right to participate fully in the community. He emphasised the significance of ensuring accessibility at public administration buildings, as well as educational institutions and health facilities, including accessible walkways, ramps and toilets, to promote their participation. He added that this ToT would equip trainers with the expertise and knowledge regarding physical accessibility and support them to further deliver training to stakeholders in the disability community.

H.E Makara stated that the readiness and inclusion of physical accessibility should start at the early stage of construction. He highlighted the need for this consideration at the design stage of the building and that all buildings, including existing and new buildings, must be designed and adapted according to the law on the Protection and the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

H.E Ung Sambath, Deputy Secretary-General of DAC, in charge of Technical Standards on Physical Accessibility for persons with disabilities, said that the Technical Standards, endorsed in 2018, was a comprehensive official document for building owners, and construction contractors to comply with, particularly around the inclusion of accessibility features that are a requirement by law. These technical standards were developed collectively by the Disability Action Council Secretariat General, MoSVY, the Ministry of Land Management Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC) and other related ministries.

Referring to a recent letter No. 1169 addressed on 18 May 2022 by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior (MoI) to Provincial and Municipal Governors, to call for inclusion of physical accessibility considerations into construction projects or public physical infrastructure constructions of municipal-provincial administrations, HE. Ung Sambath expressed his expectation that it will contribute to greatly improve collective action towards ensuring accessibility of every building in Cambodia. This high-level commitment resulted from the collaboration of relevant ministries under the leadership of HE. Em Chan Makara, the technical team at DAC-SG and related partners, including Humanity & Inclusion (HI), MOI, MoSVY, MLMUPC, and NGO partners, who held several consultative meetings to develop this letter.

Mr Chhor Rada, Project Manager​ at HI and member of the technical team leading physical accessibility initiatives, added that HI was working alongside DAC-SG providing technical and financial support toward this agenda. HI has contributed to the development of the ‘Technical Standards on Physical Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities’ and has continuously supported DAC-SG to provide capacity building to their sub-national officials and other stakeholders.

The ACCESS Program is working in partnership with MoSVY, DAC, and relevant ministries to improve the quality and inclusiveness of services to persons with disabilities.