Accessibility still a big issue for PWDs, says NCDA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 3) — The National Commission on Disability Affairs said there are still buildings and establishments that do not have accessibility features for persons with disabilities despite a law that has been in place to help the PWDs move freely and easily wherever they go.

Speaking to CNN Philippines on Thursday, NCDA Executive Director Emerito Rojas noted that some PWDs still struggle with even entering buildings or using facilities.

Rojas cited Batas Pambansa Blg. 344, which was passed in 1982, to enhance the mobility of disabled persons by requiring certain buildings, institutions, establishments and public utilities to install facilities and other devices. 

"Nakasaad po na kailangang may accessible structures, halimbawa yung mga rampa para sa mga wheelchair lahat ng government o private establishments," he said of the law.

[Translation: It is mentioned that there must be accessible structures, for example wheelchair ramps in all government or private establishments.]

Rojas lamented that this is not fully implemented.

Signages, non-skid flooring, toilets and washrooms, and parking area slots are also among the basic requirements to help PWDs in the country, he said.

In 2010, the Philippine Statistics Authority said there were about 1.6 million PWDs in the country. Included in this number are those in wheelchairs, those who walk with limps, those who are deaf and blind, those with speech impairments, as well as mental illnesses and those with rare diseases.

Rojas also mentioned the need to protect the rights of the disabled to education which is not fulfilled by some schools due to the absence of PWD-friendly facilities.

"Ang problema natin sa edukasyon ay karamihan sa eskwelahan natin ay hindi accessible," he pointed out. "Ibig sabihin, hirap na hirap pumasok ang naka-wheelchair or yung mga blind na may kulang sa mga bagay...para sila ay makapag-aral on equal basis with others."

[Translation: Our problem with education is most of our schools are not accessible. Meaning, those who are in wheelchairs or are blind find it difficult to come to school because the facilities to help them learn on equal basis with other are lacking.]

Meanwhile, Rojas reminded the public that certain privileges are given to PWDs. Among them are discounts for goods and services once they are given PWD cards, as well as access to express lanes, and tax incentives for their caregivers.

"Ang Republic Act 11228, ngayon po ay libre na rin po ang PhilHealth ng mga may kapansanan," he said. "Ibig sabihin hindi na po sila magbabayad ng monthly dues sa membership. At kung nagtatrabaho naman po sila, kalahati ay babayaran pa rin ng employer, pero yung kalahating participation ng may kapansanan...hindi na po babayaran 'yan...pag narollout na po ang PhilHealth hopefully by early next year."

[Translation: Under Republic Act 11228, PhilHealth is provided for free to PWDs. This means they do not have to pay monthly membership dues.. And if they are working, half will be paid by their employers, but the PWDs don't have to pay the other half...when this is rolled out hopefully by early next year.]

Watch the interview here.