Revisiting the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities-A A +A
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
ON THE night of the barangay elections, news on Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) who have cast their votes caught my interest. The report said that there were PWDs and senior citizens who have ardently exercised their right to vote despite the physical challenges that they have. I am quite impressed such that news on individuals who were "late" and were not able to cast their votes has been aired too. Although glitches during elections have been common in the country, we could not deny the fact that the marginalized sector (including the PWDs and Senior Citizens) has much more burden to face.
In the Cordillera Administrative Region, around 6,595 have been registered and certified as PWDs. This number comprises the population in the region who are covered by the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons or Republic Act 7277. Republic Act 7277 pushes for the rehabilitation, development and self-reliance of disabled persons and their integration to the mainstream society.
In pursuant to Republic Act No. 7277, accessible polling places (APPs) were set up in various branches of a shopping mall dedicated to the PWD and senior citizens voting population. Express lanes were also created to cater to the voting PWDs and senior citizen. This is in consonance with Chapter VII of the Republic Act 7277 which states that PWDs have the same rights, including civil rights, just as the other members of the society and that it is the responsibility of the government to give full support to the integration of the PWDs in the mainstream society.
However, it is not just that. PWDs are also given their full right and privilege in employment, education, health, telecommunications, social services and accessibility.
As to employment, five percent (5%) of all casual emergency and contractual positions in the Departments of Social Welfare and Development; Health; Education, Culture and Sports; and other government agencies, offices or corporations engaged in social development shall be reserved for disabled persons. In education, RA 7277 mandates that at least five percent (5%) of the allocation for the Private Education Student Financial Assistance Program created by virtue of R.A. 6725 shall be set aside for disabled students pursuing vocational or technical and degree courses. This is aside from the creation of special education, policies, and programs specifically geared towards the development of the PWDs. Health services for the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of disabilities have been also prioritized by the government. Moreover, television stations are encouraged to provide sign language inset or subtitles in at least one (1) newscast program a day and special programs covering events of national significance. PWDs may also avail of free postal services specifically for articles and literatures like books and periodicals, orthopedic and other devices, and teaching aids for the use of the disabled sent by mail within the Philippines and abroad and aids and orthopedic devices for the disabled sent by abroad by mail for repair granted that these will be used for personal purposes only of the marginalized PWD as certified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Batas Pambansa Bilang 344, otherwise known as the "Accessibility Law" further expounds the rights and privileges of the PWDs by ensuring the attainment of a barrier-free environment that will enable disabled persons to have access in public and private buildings and establishments and such other places.
These mandates are to be implemented and monitored not by the DSWD alone but by other government agencies too. The news on PWDs having to crawl levels high only to cast their votes is really an inspiration of determination. But this should also serve as a reminder to all of us that as responsible citizens, whether we are a part of the government or not, we have the responsibility to ensure that the rights and privileges of the PWDs are not disabled.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 30, 2013.