FEW weeks ago, a Baguio based sign language interpreter visited my office to inquire about existing national laws concerning persons with disabilities or the elderly especially when dealing with commercial establishments. Ms. R.E. Corpuz was attended to by our frontline personnel and referred to our Consumer Welfare Division. Since I was on a field assignment during her visit, I learned after that she was particular on how supermarkets, restaurants, banks and other establishments should be more adaptive to consumers who may have physical impairment and her likes to adapt to basic transactional practices. According to the attending officer of DTI, Ms. Corpuz and her group wanted to be fully updated and informed on their rights as PWDs and senior citizens aside from discounts and priority lanes.

We got her point well when she intimated that perhaps even normal or physically abled persons like us should also be taught on basic hand language so that we can at least understand them in times of engagement. Most livelihood programs and government assistance packages were designed for normal beneficiaries however PWDs such as their group were most often not eligible

Republic Act No. 7277 or otherwise known as the “Magna Carta for Persons with Disability” states that PWDs shall be entitled to at least twenty percent (20%) discount and exemption from the value-added tax or VAT on the sale of goods and services for the exclusive use availment of the PWD, on the fees and charges relative to the utilization of all services in hotels and similar lodging establishments, restaurants and recreation centers. The 20% discount also applies to admission fees charged by theaters, cinema houses, concert halls, circuses, carnivals and other similar places of culture, leisure and amusement, purchase of medicines in all drugstores, medical and dental services including diagnostic and laboratory fees such as, but not limited to, x-rays, computerized tomography scans and blood tests. The discount also applies to professional fees of attending doctors in all government facilities, subject to the guidelines to be issued by the Department of Health (DOH), in coordination with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). This also applies to fare for domestic air and sea travel, actual fare for land transportation travel such as public utility buses or jeepneys, taxis, asian utility vehicles, shuttle services and public railways. On funeral and burial services for the death of the PWD: Provided, That the beneficiary or any person who shall shoulder the funeral and burial expenses of the deceased PWD shall claim the discount under this rule for the deceased PWD upon presentation of the death certificate. Such expenses shall cover the purchase of casket or urn, embalming, hospital morgue, transport of the body to intended burial site in the place of origin, but shall exclude obituary publication and the cost of the memorial lot.

Now under educational assistance or skills training to PWDs, they can pursue primary, secondary, tertiary, post tertiary, as well as vocational or technical education, in both public and private schools, through the provision of scholarships, grants, financial aids, subsidies and other incentives to qualified PWD. Accordingly, they can likewise avail support for books, learning materials, and uniform allowance to the extent feasible so long as the PWD meets the minimum admission requirements.

In the case of the services provided by my office in terms of skills training, they can actually be included as a group for a specialized training but they must first let us know what skills in particular they want to avail.

The Department of Trade and Industry has a Mentor-Me program under its Negosyo Center and KAPATID Program, which aims to develop micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises through coaching and mentorship. The program also brings together experts and industry leaders who provide a series of free mentoring sessions on incorporating innovation in products, services, operation processes, business models, and other aspects of entrepreneurship for aspiring and current entrepreneurs. The PWDs can also avail of the basic services of the Negosyo Centers which are now established in the CAR provinces. A training for PWDs can actually be tailor fitted for them in tie up or partnership with other government offices and even local government units. For particulars, please visit the nearest DTI office in your areas.