PWDs call for equal voice in society

By ALDWIN QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — “We are longing for the day when we Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are no longer depending on the people without disabilities to decide for us; we want that we PWDs will truly actively participate in the society towards inclusive development,” said John Paredes during the program for the August 03, “White Cane Safety Week Celebration 2015” at the Baguio Convention Center (BCC).

He said that in order for them to feel with the theme of the celebration: “Opportunities for PWDs toward inclusive development”, they should be given the real opportunities by being integrated and having participative roles in policy-making bodies and agencies. He said that gone are the days when they feel helpless that they only wait for people with fully functioning body parts to come to their aid.

He said this still remains a challenge for the PWDs to prove that they can be productive in socio-economic development.

Baguio Federation of PWDs President Avelino Thomas said that it was stated in the United Nations Convention on the rights of PWDs (UNCRPD) that they should be involved in community development.

He said they should be treated as equals and that they should not be seen because of their deformities, disabilities or their physical differences but as people who can do good for the progress of society.

Section m of the preamble of UNCRPD states the recognition of “the valued existing and potential contributions made by persons with disabilities to the overall well-being and diversity of their communities, and that the promotion of the full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of their human rights and fundamental freedoms and of full participation by persons with disabilities will result in their enhanced sense of belonging and in significant advances in the human, social and economic development of society and the eradication of poverty”.

Thomas said that PWDs should also be given equal opportunities in employment. He said that the PWDs are not beggars who depend on alms and they can work and have different skills and abilities.

He said that UNCRPD states that PWDs “should have the opportunity to be actively involved in decision-making processes about policies and programs, including those directly concerning them”.

According to Thomas, although the local government unit of Baguio is doing its best in its bid to integrate them into the mainstream society, it is still not enough.

He cited the non-existence of a PWD Affairs Office (PDAO).

He said this will be a great help for them to actually participate in the formulation and implementation of policies, plans and programs for the promotion of the welfare of the PWDs.

Thomas cited the making of accessible facilities for the PWDs. He said that had the PWDs been consulted in the design of the ramps for PWDs in wheelchairs or accessible comfort rooms among others, they will not experience difficulties in accessing these.

He lamented that such facilities are seemingly made just for compliance.

He also opined on putting exclusively PWD students in special schools like the Special Education Center (Sped Center). He said that although they may be differently-abled, they will feel like they are being segregated from the “normal” people. He said this is not only a feeling but it is also a fact.

He said this is also a violation to the UNCRPD stating that “PWDs are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability”.

He said they only want to be treated as equal with other people and not to be seen as a pitiful and helpless sector.

The celebration was started with a parade and a program at the BCC.

It was followed by talent and cultural competitions and parlor games. #nordis.net

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