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State must provide better access for disabled people

Dear Editor,

I went past the Canadia Tower and was appalled to see that at the two main entrances, access was via a set of stairs without a ramp or handrail to be seen.

How can this be allowed to happen? This is supposedly the premier office building in Cambodia. Does Canadia Bank and its other tenants have no interest in disabled persons?

I am amazed at new hotels and other buildings being built without any consideration for access – there only needs to be one ramp and/or one set of steps with a handrail.

The government is making big strides in advancing the cause of disabled persons with the National Law on Disability and the recent quota system of minimum levels of employment for disabled persons. However, building access standards seem to be lacking.

I am a person of advancing age who has a disability. I had polio as a child and now wear a brace on one leg. I get around by being careful and using a walking stick, and am enjoying myself here while working as a volunteer.

But all these steps – at commercial, NGO and government buildings.

Not only do they have steps (from two to too many), but they do not have handrails; for many physically disabled persons, a handrail would help them up and down steps that would be otherwise insurmountable.

Don’t even mention ramps for wheelchairs. The number I have seen can be counted on two hands.

Ramps are vital for people in wheelchairs and invaluable for less mobile people carrying items, persons using walking sticks etc.

In my home country, things are not perfect, but new buildings and government buildings are expected to provide access to all members of the community.

I call on the various disability groups to band together and convince the relevant government authorities to enforce a code of practice requiring new buildings to adhere to this rule.

Cambodia has a high number of disabled persons, and with the growth of tourism is attracting higher numbers of older tourists, some of whom have mobility problems. Cambodia has a young population, but it will age and some will become more disabled. The time to act is now.

Tourists vote with their wallets and their feet, however unsteady they may be. I have reached a point where, if I need to buy something, stay somewhere or buy a service, I look for the one with better access, even if it is more expensive.

Again I call on the National Centre for Disabled Persons, Cambodian Disabled Persons Organisation, Association of Blind Persons, Disability Action Council, Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, and the many other disability organisations to begin a public campaign to improve access for everyone in Cambodia.

Wayne Slattery
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

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