PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA —
Reaksmey Mary and her family took a motor-taxi from Koh Oknha Tei in Kandal province to a hospital on the outskirts of Phnom Penh for a health check up, after riding around downtown and visiting shopping malls in town.
This was the first time ever that Mary could move around with her family, after almost 10 years where she could only lie down on a bed at her house in Koh Oknha Tei.
Mary is now able to travel to anywhere through “Mobilituk,” a tuk tuk service catering to the physically disabled.
Without Mobilituk she wouldn’t be able to bring her daughter anywhere, said Mary’s mother Khem Vy, 47.
“It was difficult to bring her anywhere, when she was 10-year-old, we no longer could take Mary anywhere by motorbike,” said Vy.
“We tried once but she fell off from the bike, since then we stopped bringing her out. So she was just staying at home and lying on the bed all the time.”
The Mobilituk is equipped with a steel ramp that pulls down to allow a wheelchair to roll in.
Designed by Agile Development, the first Mobilituk was invented in 2016 aiming to assist the disabled people in and around the capital.
Currently, there are five Mobilituks in Phnom Penh.
According to Ministry of Social Affairs, by 2015 there were more than 50,000 physically disabled people in Cambodia, while the Asian Development Bank estimated that up to 15 percent of the population lived with physical or mental disabilities.
Transportation is a huge problem for people with disabilities like Mary who rely on a wheelchair and need someone else to assist her.
Agile Development together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) plan to have more Mobilituks to use in the northern provinces of Cambodia.
Keogh Jonhston, an engineer at Agile Development Group, told VOA Khmer that Mobilituk had helped people with disabilities like Mary to be able to travel.
“When you see somebody, who never had the opportunity to see the city, or go to a shopping mall, or see more monuments, has been transported to tuk tuk,” he said, “the joy that brings to them to see, you are just inspired to contribute more.”
A month after getting his tuk tuk converted to the mobilituk, a mobilituk driver, Keo Sarout, 45, got two disabled clients, including Mary.
“My clients said it’s more convenient than a car or other vehicle is,” he said.
Sarout said takes pity on disabled people, and now he has a chance to help them.
“I think I could help the society by helping the disabled persons as they find it quite difficult to travel anywhere,” he said.
He added that other tuk tuk drivers were also interested to have the steel ramp installed on their vehicles.
Born into a poor farming family with three siblings, Mary was disabled since she was six months old, when she got a serious illness.
“She has been motionless and stayed at home for years, while everyone else was able to go outside, she wouldn’t. I’m so I pity her. When she sees the neighborhood kids walk around, she secretly stares at them,” Vy said.
Before the invention of Mobilituk, Mary’s family were able to take a tuk tuk, but it was difficult. The driver would struggle to get Mary and her wheelchair into the cab.
“She grows bigger now. The wheelchair is very heavy. I’m alone and I can’t do it unless we have two people to hold her tightly,” Vy added.
Since the invention of the Mobilituk, Mary’s mother said, her daughter has been able to travel to many places. Recently, accompanied by her mom and aunt, Mary was able to go to hospital, the Royal Palace, Independence Monument, and shopping malls.
Mary looks more healthy and happier now, said Vy. “Although her body got hurt after the first time she went on Mobiltuk as it’s almost 20 years that she hasn’t moved her body properly, she feels very happy.”
“I asked her if she still wants to go out after hurting herself, she nodded her head with a happy smile.”