PWD-friendly PH far from reality

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THE DEPARTMENT of Tourism (DOT) has probably turned a blind eye to the everyday struggles of persons with disabilities (PWDs) as seen at the new tourism promotional video released a month ago.

Not only did DOT waste a part of its P650-million budget for advertisement campaigns by publishing plagiarized work, an output of their negligence and futility, but it also tried to fool both tourists and Filipinos.

This is both disappointing and aggravating; it does not require high intellect to realize that the DOT project is full of lies from technicality to content.

The campaign has raised suspicion it might have been plagiarized from a much earlier South African campaign, prompting DOT to stop its airing.

Moreover, it also painted a picture of the country that was far from reality—a destination friendly to PWDs.

The video featured a blind, old retiree from Japan traveling and “experiencing” the country’s wonders through senses other than sight. However, that would have been a lucky shot in reality for PWD tourists to be able to access places in the country safely because most of our own PWDs don’t.

I have been witnessing the inconvenience caused by the inaccessible establishments since I was younger when my grandmother had colon cancer and had trouble walking.

When we went to a six-story building in Quezon City where her doctor’s clinic was located, we found the elevator broken. The clinic was located at the top floor.

We had to put her in a monobloc chair and ask four men, whom we paid P100 each after, to carry her to the sixth floor. Due to the discomfort she had on the way up, she just decided to walk her way back down. It was a depressing sight.

This is only one of the many perils our PWDs experience every day. Republic Act 7227 or the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, specifically its section on Accessibility law or the Batas Pambansa 344, has fallen into the pit of those laws in need of strict compliance and amendment. Its promotion of a barrier-free environment is seldom carried out and never given much attention to be assessed.

Many establishments, mostly government agencies, violate the law.

In 2015, the National Council for Disability Affairs reported that only 40 out of 1,200 local government agencies followed the requirement stated by the Accessibility Law when government offices should be the foremost models of the public in enforcing the said law.

But Frederick Alegre, DOT assistant secretary for public affairs, claimed that the ad intended to “show that we take care of them [elderly, PWDs] here.” He added that there had been a “constant effort” from the government to make more facilities PWD-sensitive.

However, even transportation establishments like the transit systems hamper the mobility and safety of PWDs.

Since most of the train stations are elevated, PWDs find a hard time going up especially now that broken elevators have become the norm.

Ramps near the facilities are also not visible.

There is also a non-existent auditory and tactile paving on pedestrian lanes for the deaf and visually impaired. In other countries, pedestrian lanes are often accompanied with beeping sounds: slow for stop and fast for go.

However, in our country, PWDs have to treat simple, daily activities as daily challenges, such as needing to cross the street.

Like I said, the Philippines is far from being a PWD-friendly country.

The DOT and other government agencies should use their multimillion budgets to fix their impaired sights on the state of our PWD countrymen and how they are not experiencing the “constant efforts” they claim to do.

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