The Disability Action Council (DAC) highlighted the hurdles faced by blind individuals in accessing inclusive education, stressing the need for dedicated investment in this initiative to ensure social inclusion.

Em Chan Makara, DAC’s secretary-general shared these insights at a national conference on authors’ rights, addressing on the rights of disabled persons and the Marrakesh Treaty. The treaty facilitates the production and global distribution of specially adapted books for those with blindness or visual impairments. 

The conference took place last week in Phnom Penh, with attendees including Long Ponnasirivath, the secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and Alissar Chaker, the resident representative of UNDP in Cambodia, along with individuals with disabilities. 

During the conference, Chan Makara explained how the treaty plays an essential role in empowering disabled individuals with essential rights to education, access to markets, employment opportunities and participation in charitable activities, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation.

“The Marrakesh Treaty holds significant importance, particularly for the blind and those with impaired vision, who make up a substantial percentage of disabled individuals in Cambodia—specifically, up to 35 per cent,” he said.

He further explained that individuals who are blind encounter challenges when it comes to accessing and reading printed documents. This limitation hinders their ability to gather comprehensive information from such materials. The reliance on Braille, auditory resources, electronic books or documents with large print becomes crucial since traditional text formats are not accessible to them.

“In Cambodia, blind individuals encounter difficulties accessing integrated education, primarily due to the absence of Braille-printing machinery crucial for their learning,” he said.

“Consequently, enhancing access to printed materials or books in user-friendly formats for the blind is imperative and holds significance in promoting social inclusion for everyone,” he said.

Chaker noted the treaty’s significance, underscoring its role in fostering the involvement of disabled individuals in Cambodia. Access to knowledge is a fundamental human right, unlocking opportunities in education, employment, health and active engagement across various sectors.

“People who are blind encounter difficulties when reading printed documents. To overcome these hurdles, these citizens require resources like Braille, audio books and large-print materials,” she explained.

Ponnasirivath stated that this marked the second collaboration among the culture ministry, the DAC and the UNDP. The conference aimed to guarantee that individuals with visual impairments have seamless, integrated access to information and education.