Over one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability.
Persons with disabilities, “the world’s largest minority”, often face barriers to participation in all aspects of society. Barriers can take a variety of forms, including those relating to the physical environment or to information and communications technology (ICT), or those resulting from legislation or policy, or from societal attitudes or discrimination. The result is that persons with disabilities do not have equal access to society or services, including education, employment, health care, transportation, political participation or justice.
Evidence and experience shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all.
As the country realized in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) it recognizes that the existence of barriers constitutes a central component of disability. Under the Convention, disability is an evolving concept that “results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”
Accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities are fundamental rights recognized by the CRPD and are not only objectives, but also pre-requisites for the enjoyment of other rights. The CRPD (Article 9, accessibility) seeks to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life and development. It calls upon States Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all aspects of society, on an equal basis with others, as well as to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility.
Through United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/47/3 dated 14 October 1992, as amended by resolution A/RES/48/97 dated 20 December 1993 and General Assembly Resolution 62/127 dated 18 December 2007, December 3 of every year is a universal observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The Philippines as a UN-member country is duty-bound to comply with the said international mandate, hence Proclamation No. 1157 was issued in October 16, 2006 to enjoin all government entities and instrumentalities as well as the private sector and the media to support the celebration.
This year is anchored on Article 9 (Accessibility) of the UNCRPD which requires States Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. Besides, it promotes a barrier-free environment, both infrastructure and attitudes, as means toward empowerment and inclusion of persons with disabilities in the mainstream of society.
The theme adopted this year “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all”, provides an opportunity to address the exclusion of persons with disabilities by focusing on promoting accessibility and removing all types of barriers in society. The Philippines as a State Party to the Convention is mandated to take cognizance of this provision and thus, required to implement a barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities in the country.
Through its commitment to fully support the celebration this year, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has Chaired the National Working Committee which is tasked to plan and implement activities in collaboration with the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA). The later is as the lead convenor along with different government and non-government agencies, including organizations of and for persons with disabilities.
Various activities are lined-up to highlight the Day’s celebration that include the:
(1) Launching of exhibits of accessible buildings, features and facilities for persons with disabilities. – This is a gallery display of the different agencies of the government and non-government organizations working for persons with disabilities featuring accessible amenities of public buildings and similar structures for public use which will be mounted in panels. It will also include the “Launching of PedXing (pedestrian crossing) for the Blind Persons” wherein a walk-through can be done. This will be held at the lobby of the Metro Manila Development Authority at 8:00 A.M. to be graced and attended by the Secretaries of DSWD, DOH, DOTC and DPWH to ensure that it will have a big impact to the public.
(2) Press Conference. – This will be conducted under the joint auspices of the Philippine Information Agency and the Public Information Office of MMDA. The Secretaries of DSWD, DOH, DOTC and DPWH shall be invited as resource persons who will present and discuss with the media the progress of compliance to existing laws on disability particularly Batas Pambansa Bilang 344, Republic Act 7277 and the UNCRPD, among others.
(3) Simultaneous Sensitivity training for Metropolitan Manila Traffic Enforcers – it is a sensitivity campaign on how to handle and deal with pedestrians with different types of disabilities in the local government units in Metro Manila to be held in Quezon City, Marikina City, Mandaluyong City, Pasig city and Makati City to be conducted simultaneously form 12:30 -4:00 P.M.
(4) Lecture Forum on Disability Issues. – This will consist of lecture-presentations on various topics focusing especially on the rights of persons with disabilities. Among the presenters-discussants are representatives of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Philippine Academy of Rehabilitation Medicine, Department of Health, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Department of Public Works and Highways, the NCDA, and others. This will be held at the SM City Marikina from 12:00 NN to 5:00 P.M.
These activities are envisioned to provide opportunities for participation by all stakeholders in the country among the government (both national and local), non-government organizations, civil society groups and organizations of persons with disabilities to focus on the issues related to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in development, both as beneficiaries and agents.
(1) UN Enable – http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1594
(2) National Council on Disability Affairs, Quezon City
(3) Metro Manila Development Authority, Makati City
DOWNLOAD: Program for the International Day, Dec 3