Freedom to move: How the new driving license prakas opens opportunities for me and other persons with disabilities

By Pornd Raksmey, Project Assistant for Communications and Advocacy, UNDP Cambodia

February 12, 2021

Driving a car or riding a motorbike is something many people take for granted. But not me.

As a person with a disability, my right to travel, along with the rights of other persons with disabilities, has been restricted by the inability to use modified vehicles without any specific legislation. The law on driving licenses did not cover persons with disabilities.

Disruptive technologies and innovations have had a significant influence on the world of disability, allowing some persons with disabilities in Cambodia to drive their own vehicles by adjusting them and using assistive technology. But in Cambodia people living with disabilities did not have legal capacity to receive a driving license.

On December 3, 2020 this changed. The Inter-Ministerial Prakas on driving licenses for people with disabilities was officially announced by the Royal Government Of Cambodia. This prakas provides the opportunity for persons with disabilities to apply for their driving licenses by ensuring their modified vehicles are recognized by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport in terms of safety.

This protects the legal rights of persons with disabilities to use their modified vehicles independently, and to take part more fully in society – as I have through driving my modified motorbike.

My name is Raksmey. I have a physical impairment and grew up in one of Cambodia’s provinces. Over the years, I was labeled, discriminated against, discouraged, excluded, and bullied both physically and psychologically in my community and at the schools I attended. People said that I would not be able to drive – that I would always need someone to help me to go anywhere.

My life was dependent on others due to the mobility challenge I faced and my impairment that hindered or fully prohibited me from traveling. As a result, it was a miracle for me when I could modify my motorbike, and it completely changed my life.

I was finally able to go beyond my limits in terms of restricted mobility. Having my own modified motorbike built my motivation and confidence, and it helped me to pursue my university degree. Consequently, my own modified motorbike helped me to reach my full potential in education, charity work, volunteering, internships, sports, and entertainment activities, but also working opportunities. These opportunities have brought me to my position today, working at UNDP Cambodia with a job that I am incredibly passionate about to help support the disability sector.

I have experienced firsthand how persons with disabilities will benefit from the removal of limitations on their right to drive through the new prakas. It makes our rights to fundamental freedoms a reality, and it is a key piece of legislation along with Cambodia’s law on the promotion and the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.

At last persons with physical impairments who have been using modified vehicles, including me, can apply for a driving license - just like persons without disabilities. Finally, we too can be recognized as legal drivers.