The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Disability Action Council (DAC) are seeking input into the drafting of an amendment to the law on copyright and intellectual property (IP), which will focus on regulating publishing exemptions that support people with disabilities.

One method of input collection was through a consultative workshop held on December 26, supporting by the UNDP in Cambodia. The workshop solicited input into means that would allow the free use of author’s works by educational institutions, libraries, archives and museums, to improve access to them for people with disabilities.

The ministry said in a statement that the reproduction of works in other formats that can be exclusively distributed and used by the blind and deaf was permitted under the Marrakesh Treaty (2013). The treaty was drawn up to facilitate access to published works by persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.

Cambodia is one of only two ASEAN member states that are signatories to the treaty, having signed it in June 2013. The treaty guarantees access to knowledge and information to persons with disabilities, while protecting copyright.

Em Chan Makara, secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation who also serves as DAC secretary-general, said once enacted, the new law will benefit the disabled members of Cambodian society.

“We have laid out several strategies to create opportunities for equal participation in social activities by promoting the production and printing of documents or information in formats that are easy to read for disabled persons,” he added.

He also said the government has ratcheted up its use of sign language, braille text, large print letters and the phonetic alphabet. This expanded equal access to information, education and research opportunities for the whole population.

Chhort Bunthang, cultural relations, tourism and education research officer at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, hailed the drafting of the new amendment.

“We should definitely introduce mechanisms that allow us to publish more documents for people with disabilities. This will allow them to understand the present situation of the economy, society, politics, culture, technology and other areas, and see how far they have grown. A disability should be no barrier to understanding the world around them,” he added.

Bunthang appealed to the government to increase the publishing of documents for disabled persons so they can follow the rapid development of the Kingdom.

In the 2014 Demographic Survey Report, the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation said persons with disabilities accounted for between1.6 to 2.4 million – or between 10 and 15 per cent – of the total population.