Buses Need to Be More Accessible for People with Disabilities

A recent assessment has revealed that Cambodia’s buses and stops are ill-equipped to cater to people with disabilities, due to inadequate lighting at night, damaged shelters, high pavements and lack of information boards
Students prepare to take a bus in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Students prepare to take a bus in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Public buses should be accessible, safe, and comfortable for people with disabilities, a recent assessment showed.

The assessment, which was presented during the 5th Asia-Pacific Community Based Inclusive Development Congress on March 15 to 17 at Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, said that at bus stops, participants felt comfortable due to roof and seating being provided. However, complaints were raised about lack of information boards and ramps, and that the curb is often too high.

The assessment added that at bus stops, shelters are small and roofs are often damaged, while parked vehicles regularly block the entrance.

Bad smells due to rubbish, no trash bins, difficult to identify bus stops without assistance, no or inadequate lighting, rough surface of sidewalks and frequent holes, as well as not enough available seats and seats were also raised as concerns, the assessment showed.

The assessment was conducted to highlight disability inclusion perspectives on donated buses and to strengthen disability sensitivity of Chinese and Japanese investment policies for future infrastructure investment, the presentation said.

Journey Access Tool (JAT) combines access audit and road safety audit approaches to identify barriers to transport on journeys taken by people with a disability.

They said that the JAT was undertaken in February 2022 during day-time and March 2022 during night-time with eight groups.

At bus stops at night, the assessment said that over 50 percent felt frightened because of no light and security cameras, and the long waiting time.

Sixteen females with disabilities felt unsafe and scared of being abused or robbed, the assessment said, adding that most bus stops do not have information boards, bus schedules, or routes.

While some boards are available, they use small print and have no braille version, the assessment added.

The assessed buses all have steps, which are too high, and some complained that no one helped them to board the bus and there is no accessible ramp. Some buses have assistants, but most have only drivers and it is hard for persons with disabilities to request assistance when boarding.

The assessment said that most buses have no space for wheelchairs and there was no service information.

No seats are designated for persons with disabilities, while others complained the seats were narrow and had no handrail and armrest, the evaluation added. There is no landing pad when getting off a bus and some transport staff do not provide assistance, it said.

Ket Sophorn, a fresh graduate at Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE), said that she used a public bus for two years and she has seen both positive and negative sides.

As a student, Sophorn really appreciates public buses because she can save money and she can read books while riding them. However, she said there were a few challenges, such as the bus stop had a bad smell from urine and garbage.

Also due to leaking and damage at bus stops, she felt unwell when it rained and, sometimes, it was hard for her because some bus stops were dark and drivers could not see her waiting.

Sophorn said once she met a blind man and it was really difficult for him as he could not see anything. She noted that buses should have a driver and assistant able to help people with disabilities.

“The Government should take these challenges into consideration to facilitate people's convenience,” Sophorn said.

Phnom Penh’s deputy governor, Koeut Chhe, said that regarding the damage of bus stops, authorities are proposing to a company to fulfil the promise​ as set out in an agreement.

Citizens must also cooperate in addressing and mitigating these problems, Chhe said, adding that bus stops have also been vandalised, some people steal steel from bus stops, while others sleep there.

“We cannot wait for only one side to do something, we must cooperate together,” Chhe told Kiripost on Thursday.