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Ministries issue prakas allowing disabled to test for driver’s licences

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Disabled people drive vehicles along Sothearos Boulevard in Phnom Penh's Chamkarmon district last year. Hong Menea

Ministries issue prakas allowing disabled to test for driver’s licences

The government, through three relevant ministries, issued an inter-ministerial prakas allowing disabled people to have the right to legally get a driver’s licence, with the overall goal of promoting the rights of disabled people to drive vehicles in Cambodia.

The prakas was co-signed by Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng, and Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth on December 3 and made public on December 10.

It states that disabled people have the right to drive motorcycles with engine displacements greater than 125cc, or that utilise more than 11kW of electricity, as well as motorcycles with trailers, tuk-tuks and four-wheeled motorcycles.

They also authorised disabled people to drive vehicles with a maximum capacity of nine passengers, including the driver, and goods transport trucks with a maximum weight of 3.5 tonnes.

Disability Action Council (DAC) secretary-general Em Chan Makara said the aim of the inter-ministerial prakas defining the conditions for the issuance of such driving licences was to promote the rights of disabled people who can safely drive vehicles in the country. Previously, disabled persons had not been granted drivers’ licences under any circumstances.

“There are certain types of vehicles that some disabled persons can drive without alteration. And there are also some parts on other vehicles that can be modified to allow disabled persons to drive,” he said.

Chan Makara added that the announcement was to be regarded as a legal proclamation and marked an important achievement towards improving conditions for disabled people in Cambodia and promoting their interests as equal citizens.

Previously, even though there were some motorcycles, tuk-tuks and other cars that were modified or adapted for use by disabled people in the country, they were still not permitted to drive on public roads because the law did not allow for such a operator’s licence.

Now, however, the Law on Protection and Promotion of Rights of Persons with Disabilities has established that the ministries of public works, health and social affairs should collectively determine which vehicles disabled people would be allowed to drive.

He said that, in particular, the main vehicle parts that are to be modified include brakes, gears, gear levers, wheels and seats. Disabled people are also allowed to drive vehicles that have been modified from two tyres to three tyres as long as they are convenient and safe for them to operate.

Driving licences for disabled Cambodian who pass a driving test are valid for 10 years, just like those issued to able-bodied people. For disabled foreign citizens, driving licences are valid for one year. Testing procedures for driving licences for Cambodian or foreign disabled people are to be conducted in the same manner as the general test taken by able-bodied drivers.

However, the driving test for disabled persons is divided into three levels. The first is for people with serious disabilities. In general, they have little or no ability to take the test for a driving licence. In most cases, they would need a great deal of training, care, and physical, mental or social rehabilitation in order to successfully pass the test.

The second level is for people with less serious disabilities who have a high probability of being able to pass the test for a driving licence, but they require special vehicles adapted for use by the disabled.

The third level is for people with mild disabilities who are able to pass the test without additional accommodation and who are allowed to drive vehicles that are not modified for use by disabled people.

Public works ministry spokesman Heang Sotheayuth said the joint prakas was made to provide driving licences to disabled persons, particularly those who are suitable candidates for driving modified vehicles. He explained that although many disabled people will have the ability to drive safely on their own, there will still be certain individuals for whom it would not be appropriate due to risks to their own safety and that of the public.

“We have to issue driving licences following a clear assessment of which vehicles have been modified properly to be in line with the inter-ministerial guidelines in order to guarantee the safety of disabled persons.

“If we issued driving licences to them like we do with everybody else and we did not assess their situation any further, it would undoubtedly cause problems. Therefore, we have developed this joint prakas to guarantee everyone’s safety,” he said.

Mi Samith, speaking on behalf of disabled people in Phnom Penh, supported the move. He said that in the past, some disabled people had the resources to buy cars like others, and many would have been able to successfully drive them, but they could not do so legally because they were not allowed to take the licencing exam.

“I’m very happy that [the public works ministry] has allowed disabled people the possibility to obtain driving licences,” he said.

But he pointed out: “Given that the statement didn’t mention any specific disabilities or state who can and can’t drive, now people with leg disabilities, or hearing or visual impairments, all have an opportunity to drive, as long as their vehicles are modified to meet the specific challenges related to their disabilities.”

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