Malaybalay’s PWDs denounce continuing discrimination

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/23 July) – Persons with disabilities in this city continue to face discrimination as the law seeking to protect them is far from being fully implemented, members of the Malaybalay City Differently-Abled Persons Association (MCDAPA) said in a forum Friday.

“Discrimination is still rampant, including physical, mental, and emotional harassment,” said Joel Maureal, a one-armed electronic technician from Brgy. Casisang.

In the planning workshop held during the forum organized by the City Social Welfare and Development Office in time for the 33rd National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week celebration, the MCDAPA members identified issues and concerns and proposed courses of actions, too.

Maureal, who lost his right arm in a vehicular accident when he was still in high school, said his group noted that PWDs are discriminated in public places like being declined by drivers of motorcabs or are ignored when they claim their designated seats in public utility vehicles.

He noted that discrimination came also in verbal and non-verbal ways, citing that neighbors continue to heckle PWDs to a race, among others.

Another member, Isidro Aroa, from Brgy. 7, pushed for a required seminar for public utility vehicle drivers.

“Their license should not be renewed if they fail to comply,” he added.

Other groups noted the lack of ramps for PWDs in government and other public places and also the signs and stickers designating spaces for them.

The PWD group said the laws are there but either the implementation was poor or public dissemination or education can use a lot of improvement.

Republic Act 7277 as amended by Republic Act 9442 or the “Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities of 2007,” for example, provided in sections 39 and 40 that no individual, group or community shall do “any act of ridicule against persons with disabilities in any time and place which could intimidate or result in loss of self-esteem of the latter”.

The law defined public ridicule as an act of making fun or contemptuous initiating or making mockery of persons with disability “whether in writing or in words, or in action due to their impairments”.

In RA 7277 Sec. 25, the State is mandated to ensure the attainment of a barrier-free environment that will enable persons with disabilities to have access in public and private buildings and establishments and such other places mentioned in Batas Pambansa Bilang 344, otherwise known as the “Accessibility Law.”

Individual violators or those representing organizations are punishable by either imprisonment for not less than six months or penalty of at least P50,000 on first offense.

For business establishments violating the magna carta’s provisions, violation could mean revocation of business permits or franchises, and other privileges.

But the PWDs’ biggest hurdle is seeking employment.

“We will be declined 101 times for our 100 attempts to apply for a job,” Maureal, who is self-employed, lamented.

The law provided for equal opportunity for employment where no person with disability will be denied access to opportunities for suitable employment.

Jerome Palluto, MCDAPA president, said they offer not just the problems but their proposed solutions.

The group has vowed to write to authorities concerned to call their attention on the implementation of the law. They have also proposed skills training for the PWDs. Others proposed media mileage to help inform and educate the public about the issues and concerns of the PWDs.

Some participants pushed for a pension for indigent PWDs. But Ivy Amor Urbina, of the Persons with Disabilities Affairs Office of the CSWDO, warned against its effect on the campaign for PWDs to be productive.

Aroa has proposed maximum participation of all PWDs in the city through organization of local PWD associations in the city’s 46 barangays.

But for Maureal, whatever needs to be done, the best place to start the campaign against discrimination against PWDs is within the family. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)