Driving a car or riding a motorbike is something many people take for granted. But not me.
My name is Raksmey. I have a physical impairment and grew up in one of Cambodia’s provinces. Over the years I have been discriminated against, discouraged, excluded, and bullied both physically and psychologically, in my community and at school. People said that I would not be able to drive and that I would always need someone to help me to go anywhere.
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.
New technology has had a significant influence on the world of disability, allowing some persons with disabilities in Cambodia to drive their own vehicles by adjusting them using assistive technology. But even though this was the case people living with disabilities were still not allowed to have a driving license.
As a consequence, my life was dependent on others. Because of my challenges I couldn’t move around with help.
On December 3, 2020 this changed when a new law on driving licenses for people with disabilities was officially announced by the Royal Government of Cambodia. It 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.
This protects the legal rights of people like me to use their modified vehicles independently, and to take part more fully in society.
My life changed when I was able to modify my motorbike.
It has built my motivation and confidence, and it helped me to pursue my university degree. Consequently, it has helped me to reach my full potential in all aspects of my life, from education, volunteering, internships, sports, to work opportunities.
It has brought me to my position today, working at UNDP Cambodia with a job that I am incredibly passionate about; helping to improve the lives of other Cambodians with disabilities.
I have experienced firsthand how liberating driving is. 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 equal legal drivers.