Ensuring Access for People with Disabilities: The Technical Working Group Has Their First Meeting in CambodiaPublished: Jun 28, 2022 Reading time: 5 minutes
In Cambodia, people with disabilities (PwDs) are estimated to represent 2% to 9.5% of the total population. It’s reported that the group is at a higher risk for economic drawbacks than other citizens, especially in accessing formal education or Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). Accessing decent employment opportunities has also been one of the barriers for this respective group.
The ‘Toward Inclusive Employment for People with Disabilities’ project is co-implemented by People in Need Cambodia and Agile Development Group and funded by the Czech government through the Czech Development Agency. The purpose of this project is to increase employability and employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which is aligned with SDG 4 (Quality Education). The project will promote inclusive education by focusing on providing technical support for the development of new practices for inclusive education and training, as well as technical assistance to the training centers. Along with this, up-to-date disability-friendly equipment will also be provided to ensure that the training program is accessible and reliable for people with disabilities. During the last phase of the project, there will be support for business incubation programs and entrepreneurship.
First implemented late last year, this project will run until 2023. One of the key activities of this project is the formation of a Technical Working Group (TWG) to work on inclusive education guidelines. As of recently, we were able to kick off the very first TWG alongside the Agile Development group, which took place from the 23-24th May, 2022. This activity aims to undertake a rigorous assessment of best practices in inclusive education for people with disabilities in the Cambodian context. It will also provide practical insight on overcoming barriers to inclusive TVET programs for this group. This work will be supported by relevant government representatives, TVET institutions, CSO representatives, and people with disabilities groups.
In this first meeting, we are honored to have His Excellency Em Chan Makara, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, and Secretary-General of the Disability Action Council Secretariat; Mr. Ian Jones, Executive Director and Technical Advisor of Agile Development Group; and Mrs. Barbora Zackova; Head of Development Section for the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Cambodia. Along with the above-mentioned representatives, we also have representatives from relevant government institutions, TVET institutions, People with Disabilities groups, and relevant Civil Society Organizations.
During the opening speech, H.E Em Chan Makara stressed the commitment of the Royal Government of Cambodia in increasing people with disabilities’ access to TVET education. He adds, ‘In addition to national policy measures, the Royal Government has encouraged and supported employers, educational institutions, vocational education, and training institutions that provide opportunities for persons with disabilities and their families to receive education, vocational training, skills, and capacity building on communications through leadership training, confidence building, and career orientation.’
In assessing barriers to inclusive TVET education for people with disabilities, we utilize the ‘Human-Centered Design’ approach. This process helps the project implementers formulate solutions that involve a human perspective through building empathy with our target groups, generating ideas based on their actual experiences, building prototypes, sharing our work progress with the people we are designing for, and last but not least, prioritizing our users’ need.
“Listening to the challenges faced by those with hearing impairment makes me feel overwhelmed. When we think our life is hard, imagine living with the disabilities and unable to express our feeling”, says a representative of the Disability Action Council during his presentation.
To collect people with disabilities’ actual experiences and concerns, group discussions were formed amongst participants to conduct empathy mapping and define barriers to inclusive TVET faced personally by individuals. Along with certain defined barriers, participants were also asked to ideate solutions to each issue they raised.
Our project does not limit to certain types of impairment. We support all those with upper, lower, visual, and hearing impairments, and with their participation in the technical working group meeting, we can identify what are the most common barriers faced especially by each of them, and center them in our newly proposed best practices for TVET program for people with disabilities.
As a result, we were able to draft a set of recommendations on best practices for Inclusive Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) for People with Disabilities.
● Awareness-raising of Disability Inclusion: Training is needed for all TVET personnel to equip them with an understanding of people with disabilities, reasonable accommodation, and alleviating social discrimination.
● Access to Information: Information about TVET courses and/or employment opportunities post-training needs to be advertised and distributed through multi-media platforms including social media (Facebook, YouTube, Website, Phone application) radio, television, leaflets, etc. where accessibility (sign language, subtitles, precise and concise language) needs to be incorporated. In addition, face-to-face/outreach activities can be done by distributing information to village/commune, Disabled People's Organization (DPO), civil society organizations, or families of people with disabilities
● Ensuring physical accessibility: Infrastructures in institutions need to ensure that people with all types of disabilities can gain access. This includes tactile paving, signage, ramps, elevators, accessible toilets, adaptation to seating for people with lower impairment, etc.
● Job Readiness for Students with Disabilities: Career consultation is needed for students with disabilities to get them ready for employment. Ongoing skills training and capacity building (both soft and hard skills) are required for people with disabilities to ensure constant learning and upkeep with the evolving labor market.
Based on inputs generated from the TWG, TVET personnel will be further trained on the best practices to ensure that they have the necessary skills, knowledge, and understanding and that their courses are accessible for people with disabilities. Moving forward, the project committees will be working on identifying TVET centers that can incorporate these new guidelines, adjust their facilities and equipment to welcome PwDs, and partner with us further until this project, ‘Toward Inclusive Employment for People with Disabilities’, closes.