The world population is over 7 billion and the United Nations (UN) estimates that 1 billion people (15 per cent) live with some form of disability; 80 per cent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries.
“Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on equal basis with others” (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 1996). They are considered as the world’s largest minority and have lack of access to various services and face different obstacles in their day-to-day lives which result to poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.
Disability issues are development issues and removing inclusion barriers and empowering persons with disabilities to participate fully in societal life benefit the community. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities, therefore, are a detriment to society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all.
Based on UN’s statistics, it can be estimated that the Philippines, with a population of 98 million, has 14.7 million people (15 per cent) who have some form of disability. Hence, there is a need to raise awareness for the rights, capacities and needs of persons with disabilities in the country.
With this, Handicap International (HI) led the celebration of the International Day for Persons with Disabilities for this year in Roxas City, Capiz province – one of the organization’s intervention areas. It has an international theme of “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want” that notes the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and their role in building a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.
Handicap International localized the theme to “Hadlang Tanggalin, Kakayahan Paunlarin” (Break Barriers, Improve Capabilities) which emphasizes the organization’s thrust, namely: disability inclusion and capacity-building of persons with disabilities. A photo exhibit was set up from 28 November to 2 December at a mall in Roxas City to raise awareness on disability issues and promote their activities and actions.
On the last day of the exhibit, HI led a motorcade which was participated by different partner organizations, government offices, disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) and project beneficiaries. A half-day program at the mall where the exhibit was held followed the motorcade.
The mall atrium was filled with more than a hundred of participants and the program aimed to provide a venue where the representatives of the government and the members of the sector can meet and hear each other out.
Joan Tan, president of Punta Tabuc DPO, shared her experiences in helping other persons with disabilities like herself in asserting for their rights and privileges. She encouraged all persons with disabilities that day to apply for their IDs to enjoy the benefits and privileges that are rightfully theirs. She also asked the representatives of the local government units to be aware of the rights, capacities and needs of persons with disabilities.
Moreover, Delia Leonor, DPO Focal Point of the Roxas City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), enumerated the best practices of the local government for the inclusion of persons with disabilities and assured the persons with disabilities that Roxas CSWDO will continue in upholding the rights of persons with disabilities.
In the end, the participants of the activity committed to be partners and active members of the community to promote inclusion by signing a commitment wall.