“MARGINALIZED disabled” is not a redunancy.

According to Republic Act (RA) 7767, also known as the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, disabled persons are considered as marginalized when they lack access to rehabilitative services and opportunities to enable their participation in socioeconomic activities.

Persons with disabilities (PWDs) are also kept at a disadvantage when they have no means of livelihood and their incomes fall below the threshold level.

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Insidious marginalization

Not included in the definition of the “marginalized disabled” but implicit in RA 7767 is the third form of marginalization: when individuals and institutions present social barriers that prevent PWDs from enjoying their human rights.

Prejudice stems from negativistic perceptions that distort a person’s physical or mental impairments and is manifested in discriminatory practices.

Cebu Pacific Airlines now fa-ces a P5-million anti-discrimination suit for reportedly pressuring Marites Alcantara and her son, John Arvin, to disembark from their Dec. 23 flight from Hong Kong to Manila.

Alcantara’s son has Global Developmental Delay, also known as Autism. The flight crew rationalized that, for the safety of all passengers, company rules disallowed two special children from boarding the same flight.

While the company has publicly apologized to the Alcantara family and stated that it has no policy of discrimination, many other instances illustrate rampant disregard of the special needs of PWDs.

Knowing, upholding rights

When the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons was approved on March 24, 1992, it was hailed as a milestone.

Nearly two decades after its passage, RA 7767 has one hitch: implementation is weak, at best.

Who monitors if the offices of social welfare, education, health, culture, sports and other public entities reserve five percent of all casual emergency and contractual positions for PWDs, as required by RA 7767 in keeping with the right to provide the differently-abled with an equal opportunity for employment?

The Magna Carta also provides that PWDs share the right to quality education.

While it is unlawful to deny admission due to a handicap, many academic and training institutions are, in effect, dousing the desire to enroll and learn in students with disabilities due to the absence of school facilities, including ramps, classrooms and comfort rooms, equipment and academic services that meet special needs.

Recognizing that families with limited means may hesitate from investing in the education of the disabled, who will have to compete in the job market, the Magna Carta provides that at least five percent of the allocation for the Private Education Student Financial Assistance Program should be set aside for disabled students in vocational or technical and degree courses.

However, scholarship grants, student loan programs, subsidies and other incentives are limited or absent in public and private schools.

In health, the government has yet to implement a comprehensive program that educates the public on the prevention of disability, whether in the prenatal or postnatal stages; recognition and early diagnosis of disability; and early and affordable rehabilitation of the disabled.

Community concern

In reality, government services rarely trickle to PWDs in the grassroots through sustained programs for prevention, medical treatment and rehabilitation. Immunization, nutrition, environmental protection and preservation and genetic counseling are needed in the early detection and timely intervention to prevent the worsening of disabilities.

In the face of state neglect, many PWDs approach private individuals or foundations for aid in fitting prosthetic and orthotic aids.

Perhaps the true insidiousness of social marginalization lies in making PWDs feel they are welfare cases existing on the patronage of the state or private sponsors.

“Disabled persons have the same rights as other people to take their proper place in society,” states the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons. The PWDs’ right to live with dignity and self-determination is a social responsibility that the community—families, governments, private institutions and civil society—should not shirk from.