Empowering the PWD’s

First National Conference on Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities
by: Jerry Liao

Did you know that people with disabilities are not and should not be called disabled persons? They are not disabled, they are very able, it’s just that they have some disabilities – and the proper term now is People with Disabilities (PWD).

In the area of technology, technology companies have taken into consideration how PWDs can take advantage of their products and services. For visually impaired individuals, we have the text-to-speech technology. The same is being used for mobile phones; technology will read the text message (SMS). There is also a voice-recognition program that will allow people who cannot move to navigate and use technologies via their voice. The list can go on and on. PWDs should be given the same opportunity to experience the power of technology.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said on the transportation sector and / on public establishments. Not all buildings are equipped with handicap ramps for those who are using wheelchairs. Not all public establishments are equipped with parking slots for PWDs. Not all public establishments provide rest rooms / powder rooms for PWDs. More so, public transportation does not provide the proper infrastructure to accommodate the PWD passengers.

Public Utility Jeeps (PUJs) do not have seats for PWDs. Public Utility Buses (PUB) do not have seats as well. PUBs don’t even have automatic ramp to be lowered for wheelchairs. SO without these things in place, how do we expect our PWDs to travel comfortably? Do we ask all of them to buy their own cars? The answer is NO. And the Philippine government is fully aware of these needs.

The Department of Transportation and Communication and the Office of the Assistance Secretary for Planning and Project Development are spearheading the First National Conference on Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities to be held at the Great Eastern Hotel, Quezon City on March 27 and March 28, 2008.

The two day conference aims to promote transport accessibility as an entry point to building a non-handicapping environment for PWDs. At the end of the conference, the participants shall have:

– developed common inter-sectoral understanding and dialogue on public transport and accessibility issues.

– linked the call for accessible transportation to efforts on creating non-handicapping public transport facilities and physical environments.

– identified the consideration needed for drawing an intervention plan for increasing inter-sectoral partnership for transport and accessibility issues.
– recommend measures to address the identified gaps and issues in the public transportation system that limits the mobility of persons with disabilities resulted from the regional transport summits held in 2007.

– drawn formulated a National Plan of Action for an accessible public transportation system for persons with disabilities in the country.

Did you know that we have Republic Act No. 7277 – Magna Carta for People with Disabilities and its implementing rules and regulations? An act providing rehabilitation, self-development and self-reliance of people with disabilities and their integration into the mainstream of society and for other purposes.

Just to show you how serious this project is, CBM International is supporting the conference. CBM is an international Christian development organization whose primary purpose is to improve the quality of life of the world’s poorest persons with disabilities and those at risk of disability, who live in the most disadvantaged societies. Their aim is to serve persons with visual impairment as well as people with other disabilities in developing countries—regardless of their nationality, sex, or religion.

CBM’s fields of work cover not only the prevention and cure of blindness, but also the education and rehabilitation of people with physical, mental, or intellectual disabilities. CBM implements its programs through local partners. The financial resources, know-how, and staff-support enable partners in developing countries to gradually become independent of foreign aid.

Overall aims of CBM’s overseas work are to:

– Enable CBM’s partners to deliver services in cooperation with disabled people’s interest groups,
– Give people with disability the support they wish,
– Promote their inclusion, and
– Raise awareness for their needs

I do hope that this conference will be the start of seeing to it that Republic Act No. 7277 is properly implemented. It’s long overdue.

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