Cambodia’s recent turbulent history has left a legacy of high numbers of people with disabilities of all ages and conditions. People with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable groups in the country and are the least likely to be in school. According to one estimate, the gap in school participation between people with and without disabilities is twice as high as the gaps associated with rural residence, wealth, and gender (World Vision 2007). Even though some disabled people are in regular schools, few modifications have been made for them and their number is minute in proportion to overall enrolment.
Not only can’t they get education, both formal and informal, and/or vocational skills for supporting lives they don’t play many roles in the society. Afterward, how could they express their voices and ideas to the society? Hence, what should be done to motivate them to raise their perceptions in the society as a full citizen? It is not any individual’s responsibilities – it is everyone’s responsibilities? First, it’s vital that everyone understand what is called disability. There is no universally agreed definition of disability although many experts try to prove evidence of their explanation.
Disablement is usually defined as being unable to use one or more limbs properly regardless of congenital abnormalities or any incidents, though. How many people are disabled in Cambodia? The number and/or percentage of people who are disabled differ from publication to publication. According to the National Institute of Statistics (2004), however, approximately 170,000 Cambodians are living with disabilities according to the last three Socio-Economic Surveys held in Cambodia.
Among them, it is estimated that the number of children under 18 years old with disabilities in Cambodia was 32,000, approximately 21% of the total number of disabled people although the number of disabled people is neither clear nor accurate. What causes to disabilities? The incidence of landmine related injuries in Cambodia is still a significant issue for the country with an estimated 40,000 amputees in Cambodia as result of landmine accidents.
Whilst landmines are still a significant problem in Cambodia, road accidents and illnesses are now the greatest causal factors in the incidence of disability in Cambodia, the outcomes of which are exacerbated by poverty and a lack of adequate health and social services. What are the classifications of people with disabilities? Among disabled people, the distribution of disability by type is as follows: unable to use one or more limbs is 22. 1%, amputee of one or more limbs 18. 2%, visual impairment 11. 5%, permanent disfigurement 10. 9%, mentally disturbed or retarded 7. 4%, deafness 4. 3%, paralyzed 4%, multiple disability 2.8%, muteness 2%, deaf-mute 0. 7%, and others.
With the same source, the most common causes of disability are illness or diseases (30%), congenital 24. 8%, accident 13%, war or conflict 12. 7%, and landmine explosion 8% (National Institute of Statistics 2004. ) What are common so-called problems people with disabilities encounter? Many a problem has been faced by people with disabilities in Cambodia. Poverty is one of the biggest problems that people with disabilities face as they are amongst the most vulnerable groups. They suffer even more than the general population from limited access to basic social services.
As a result, many people with disabilities are extremely poor. It, then, comes to discrimination. Not surprisingly, people with disabilities are usually treated in a poor way which prevents them from functioning as full member of society. The majority of the society neglect to abide the equal rights of human beings. Accessibility is also what people with disabilities have encountered. Many public buildings, hospitals, and schools have been built with complete lack of consideration for the needs of disabled people, and they find it difficult to navigate public thoroughfare due to obstructions, uneven and unpaved surfaces, steps, and suchlike.
Furthermore, education restricts people with disabilities as well. Since the education system still has very limited capacities and resources, particularly in far-flung areas where most disabled people are located, most people with disabilities are illiterate. More specifically, teachers and school directors will not allow disabled children to come to school if they require modifications. In all time, they make an excuse that the teacher has no time for, or the school cannot afford to provide. Worse than that, a small number of special centers for people with disabilities exist.
Nonetheless, formal and non-formal education programs essential for development of children’s capacity and vital means for empowerment and self-help have been implemented solely by NGOs, and have focused on children with disabilities. In addition to special programs for people with disabilities, the Disability Action Council, in close collaboration with Ministry of Education Youth and Sport, is coordinating a national policy and responsible for introducing inclusive education programs for children with disabilities.
The last thing that people with disabilities find difficult is to get employed. Disabilities people are usually ineligible, excluding some positions in some organizations, for job vacancies. For instance, one school director emphatically refused to employ a teacher with disabilities that he knew that teachers with disabilities are not physically fit, based on the criteria for selecting teachers, and was afraid that the children would imitate the teacher. What should be done to transform disabled people’s lives?
Being one of the most vulnerable groups, persons with disabilities should be gathered to form a self-help group so that they can help one another. Furthermore, there should be more special social services for them, which lead them to show their abilities. It is the government’s responsibilities to ensure that each building is, for persons with disabilities, accessible. Since discrimination rooted deeply into the thoughts of people in Cambodia society, it is hard to change their mind.
Anyway, wrong perception toward disability issues can be switched provided that the government glorifies the rights of persons with disabilities. There is many a way that leads to effectiveness of implementing non-discrimination such as an educating spot announcement through television, radio or other media, a special celebration on Disabled People Day, and so forth. Additionally, it is essential that the government corporate well with NGOs to implement inclusive education so as to approach Education For All goals which is the aim of Ministry of Education Youth and Sport has set.
Also, besides disqualifying applicants because of physical and mental disabilities, employers need to encourage disabled persons to apply and recruit them unlike the case mentioned above. Last but not least, everyone needs to value people as equal. When all is said and done, there would be soon no discrimination and consisting of equal rights, inclusive education, and job opportunity should everyone get involved. Hopefully, Cambodian people will live in peace and prosperity.