Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), as part of the disadvantaged and marginalized sector, have recognized rights based on the principle of social justice in the Philippine Constitution. Thus, the government, with all its instrumentalities, is mandated to attend to their needs and interests, not as a matter of special favor but as a legal and moral entitlement. Such government accountability, however, is still far from being fulfilled.
Based on the 2010 national census, there are 1.43 million PWDs in the country, which is 1.57 percent of the 92.1 million population back then. They are people with physical, mental, intellectual and sensory disabilities, which hinder their ability to fully participate in society in equal footing with others. The impairments result in their low economic status and low quality of life due to poor access to healthcare, education, employment and social protection (NCDA 2016).
As of 2016, approximately 350,000 of the PWDs are reported to be enrolled in public schools (DepEd, SY 2015-2016); 250,000 in elementary and 100,000 in high school. With this significant number, the schools have a critical role in showing a model for providing a favorable environment for the PWDs to protect their rights and enable access to services.
Even the issue of physical access, however, remains a big challenge until now. In the Magna Carta of Disabled Persons (RA 7277), PWDs should be accorded with a “barrier-free environment” in public and private buildings and establishments, as identified in Batasang Pambansa 344 (Accessibility Law).
The review of these services for the PWDs is long overdue. Such review must be done not only from the perspective of the government as service provider, but more so from the perspective of the PWDs themselves as service user. The school provides an ideal setting for this effort given the number of students/children with disabilities, their higher vulnerability due to age, and the importance of education as an enabling service for PWDs.
Zooming in on physical access, the DepEd has recorded a national total of 3,285 cases of orthopedic/physical handicap for SY 2016-2017 from SPED schools; 1,387 in elementary level and 1,898 in secondary level. These are found in 2,147 public schools (1,030 elementary, 1,117 secondary), averaging at 1.52 per school. The highest recorded occurrence was 50 cases in just one school and ten schools have 10-22 physically handicapped students.
Region IV-A has the highest number of cases of 362; 140 in elementary level and 222 in secondary level. Among the Region IV-A divisions, the Cavite Division ranked highest with 79 cases; 37 from elementary level and 42 from secondary level.
Thus, the project concentrates on the experience of Cavite schools and students.
The project’s goal is to influence policies on accessibility of public schools for PWDs. Public schools provide a showcase for access issues in other settings, and can feed directly into policy regarding PWD-friendly infrastructure design and use.
The expected outcomes are (a) more direct and credible inputs from PWDs in discussions on access policy, and (b) increased public school responsiveness to PWDs’ access needs.
The project is supported by the Coalitions for Change (CfC) Program a partnership between the Australian Embassy and The Asia Foundation in the Philippines. It is implemented in partnership with the Provincial Government of Cavite, Department of Social Welfare and Development Region IV-A, and the Department of Education Cavite Division.
Issue Identification Form
School Accessibility Monitoring Form
Feedback and Issue Resolution Form
Executive Summary – Accessible Public Schools
Project Site Map
Photo courtesy of Mr. Raji M. Nicol