By Megan Smith
|Megan Smith (right) and driver Mao Vanny with Cambodia's first accessible tuk tuk|
© Ivette Yanez/Agile Development Group
Last night as I weaved through Phnom Penh’s congested streets of motos and Escalades in Cambodia’s first accessible tuk tuk, I reflected upon how much of my life revolves around transportation. Finding transportation, keeping transportation, and hoping the transportation that brought you to the restaurant will come back. In some countries such as Morocco and Nepal, I spent more of my time on the back of a camel or a man than I did on my set of four wheels, being carried up steep footpaths to wherever I was working at the time. While the novelty of being carried to work on the back of a sherpa in a rice basket makes for a great pub story, having to depend on borrowed legs limits my ability to work to my full capacity, to network and to socialize.
Moving to Phnom Penh to work with UNICEF, I encountered the same barriers to transportation. Aside from motos; tuk tuks are the most efficient and cost effective way of getting around the city. To lift my 70 kg power wheelchair into a tuk tuk takes quite a bit of labour, more than one person, and an acute knowledge of Tetris. The labour in of itself made my journey price double, and the burden of getting me in and out made some tuk tuk drivers avoid eye contact with me as if we had been on a bad date. While I would eventually find a couple of drivers who were wonderful, and made a friend willing to do some heavy lifting, the process remained laborious and when they were busy, I was largely out of luck.