The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation plans to set up alarm systems at traffic lights, especially in Phnom Penh, to make it easier for the visually disabled to use pedestrian crossings.
Em Chan Makara, ministry secretary of state and secretary-general of the Disability Action Council, said on April 20 that the project was already part of the National Disability Strategic Plan 2019-2023, but it was a matter of time to implement it.
Chan Makara added that in order to make the project successful in the near future, he would discuss which systems would be the most efficient with the municipal administration and the Department of Public Works and Transport.
He said he also planned to consult with partner organisations, including Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which specialises in infrastructure development aid.
Chan Makara said that at present, audible pedestrian crossings were not widely in use, although similar systems were employed by some private companies, such as Aeon Malls and some supermarkets.
“Alert indicators are starting to be used in some supermarkets in Phnom Penh, so we want to use the same idea at traffic lights. When the way is clear for people to cross the road on foot, not only will the green pedestrian light signal that it is safe to walk, but a buzz or a beep will be emitted. We intend to start with one or two models crossings in Phnom Penh before expanding the project from there,” he said.
Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun said on April 20 that setting up alarm sounds for the visually impaired was a welcome initiative.
“Right now, traffic lights have been made with push-button switches that allow pedestrians to pass. Motorists must give way to them when the pedestrian light turns green,” he said.
He said that from his experience of travelling in many countries, when there are not many traffic lights, not many footbridges were built. If few people use them, a simple cost-benefit analysis means pedestrian flyovers are not worth building.
Transparency International Cambodia director Pech Pisey supported the initiative to set up the alarm system as a step towards allowing people with disabilities to access the same traffic services as others.
He also urged the government to promote other mechanisms or initiatives to create a better environment for people with disabilities.
“People with disabilities are vulnerable, which requires the state as well as all stakeholders to pay attention to their needs. I think creating an environment that provides additional assistance to the vulnerable, including the elderly, is something that we should all do more of,” he said.
Chan Makara added that the government always cared for the public, whether disabled, poor or vulnerable.
He said plans to install audible alert indicators at traffic lights were an expression of the government’s care. Whether a large or small number of visually impaired citizens used the service or not was irrelevant. The government had committed to make the Kingdom “a country for all”.