To the best of My (Dis)Ability-A A +A
Thursday, September 26, 2013
YESTERDAY, I had a meeting with Prof. A. Tamayo PhD, a brilliant economist and researcher, and he complained about the insensitive attitude he encountered at a local door-to-door delivery company. His request for priority service was repeatedly ignored despite his obvious condition. You see, he is a member of the sector of society defined as PWDs or Persons with Disabilities as such he should be given priority services as stated in the law. Just because he cannot walk straight as many people do, does not mean he is less of a person, when in fact he has more brains than most normally have.
We have always mouthed inclusive development or development for all these past decades but do we really know what it means? We only concentrate on uplifting the conditions of the economically disadvantaged sectors but what about the PWD sector?
My dad now uses a wheelchair to move around. When we dine out, we always have to think which malls and restaurants can offer the easiest access for my dad. I am always disgusted that accessibility ramps are always positioned in the far end of sidewalks. Vehicles are always using parking spaces reserved for the PWDs and security guards are just helpless against these obnoxious people (I may be mistaken as they may really have a disability –- lack of a brain and heart). Restaurants often have almost no space for persons using a wheelchair and worse their restrooms are just too narrow to allow maneuvering inside so I can assist my dad. Most restaurants have special chairs for babies and toddlers so why can’t they have some modified chair or table for the elderly and persons using wheelchairs as well?
I was once told by a family friend that they will never go back to a newly opened mall in the city. Their reason? They spent more than 15 minutes waiting for the chance to use the elevator. They said detestable people especially the youth would not listen to their pleas to step out and provide space for their mom using a wheelchair.
Lucky for them I wasn’t the one they encountered…. I would just have pressed the door open button and not released it until they stepped out to give room for my dad. If it takes drastic action to shame or fight them so they respect the rights of people with disabilities and the elderly, then bring it on.
I have since informed the mall manager about that incident and saw that they have posted signs stating priority for the PWDs and elderly. I hope that the PWDs and elderly can now use the elevators and not have to jostle for space with ignorant fools who are just too lazy to use the stairs and their feet. If they don’t want to use their feet, why not donate these to those who need them? hehehe
On the other hand…
Early this year, I had the privilege of representing then Mayor Inday Sara in the turnover ceremonies of houses for PWDs in the Los Amigos Resettlement Site. The joint project between the City Government and Gawad Kalinga is the first GK Village for PWDs. who were former wards of the.
Building design to enhance accessibility for persons using wheel chairs and crutches was given outmost consideration. A workplace was also built so they can continue their livelihood activities such as baking they learned from the Our Lady Of Victory Training Center for the Disabled.
The GK volunteers were there to celebrate the triumph of goodness and of the human spirit. They were there not to take pity on the plight of the PWDs but to uplift spirits as well as labor and sweat so these proud PWDs can forge on with their lives as productive members of our society. This was embodied in the GK flag fluttering in the air –- it was the usual GK logo but with an additional image of person on a wheelchair.
I hope that the PWD organizations will show more militancy in fighting for the implementation of their Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities. The battle for rights is not yet finished without its proper implementation.
Look at the local ordinances regarding reserving the front seats of jeepneys and buses for the PWDs… most PWDs I interviewed say that this is largely ignored by drivers and passengers alike. Even the front seats are not redesigned for easier access for PWDs.
It is not only the pedestrians who are forced to walk on the streets rather on sidewalks… they have forced PWDS using wheelchairs to use the dangerous streets. It becomes more dangerous for them because of the low visibility they present to drivers. I hope that they can be assisted to install bright colored flaglets positioned at the eye level of drivers so they can be more visible.
I have been talking to the organizations of architects to help the PWDs by conducting a survey to assess the implementation of Accessibility Law so that proper fines and charges can be leveled on establishments violating the rights of the PWDs. I hope they remember this suggestion.
A lot still has to be done for our cities and municipalities to be really inclusive. While planning for such will entail a change in perspectives, we can start by strictly implementing the Accessibility Law.
Here is my version of a famous quotation that I first heard from the nobles of the Shriners -- No (wo)man stands so tall as when (s)he stoops to help a PWD.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 26, 2013.