CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The Regional Council on Disability Affairs in Central Luzon has put more focus on efforts to improve the access of people with disabilities (PWDs) to employment and livelihood opportunities.
The event that it held here on Friday to observe the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week gave more technology demonstrations for PWDs.
The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority tapped the Atriev, a computer school for the blind, to show how the software JAWS (Job Access With Speech) can help the visually impaired get skills in information technology and use these to get employment.
No less than Carol Catacutan, Atriev?s training program director and who is blind, led the training team. Tesda also held contests in encoding and transcription.
The Department of Science and Technology taught ways of preparing sweetened banana chips, spicy anchovies, squash bread and lemon juice concentrate.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources shared tips in making vinegar out of fruits, fish balls, banana burger and gift items from recycled materials.
The Department of Agriculture gave instructions on how to make handicraft from corn husk.
The 500 or so PWDs like Reyson Urbino and Josephine Panlilio stayed on, trying to figure out their prospects from this exposure.
No company has hired the 23-year-old wheelchair bound Urbino but he tries to make a living at home by repairing computers. This computer technician lost his leg to a vehicular accident.
Panlilio, 47, wants to sell school supplies but the lack of capital has put the plan at bay for many years.
She earns by getting commissions from delivering school supplies sold by her sister. She goes from one school to another on wooden crutches. A moving train dragged her right leg when she was 18, prompting doctors to cut it to stop the spread of infection.
What is sure, they said, is that despite their conditions, they have not lost the will to live, support themselves and their families or be productive members of their communities.
Rodolfo Mendoza, chair of the Central Luzon Federations of PWDs, said that in the last five years, government agencies have gone out of their way in providing skills training to PWDs.
A gray area, however, is the success rate of efforts to increase access to jobs.
The actual numbers of PWDs who have been assimilated in workplaces or even those who actually finished their education are not known, Mendoza said.
This is because the survey by the government, done through the Department of Health, is a continuing undertaking, not a time-bound count, he said.
Adelina Apostol, assistant regional director of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the agency that chairs the RCDA, confirmed the lack of information.
What DSWD has managed to track down was the compliance rate of government agencies and local governments in the hiring of the PWDs, she said.
Amendments to the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons (Republic Act No. 7277) require government agencies to employ 5 percent of PWDs in their workforce, Apostol said.
That ceiling has not been attained due largely to the factor of skills, she said.
Mendoza, who has been working for 17 years in the social service arm of the Nueva Ecija government, said PWDs should land jobs because of their skills, not out of sympathy or generosity.
Richard Dakoykoy, president of the Federation of PWDs in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan, said the provincial and city governments have ?well supported? the education of the group?s 500 members aged 3 to 18. The federation has 1,000 members.
?What we need now is more support for livelihood,? said Dakoykoy, citing feedback from the group?s members.
A polio victim, he got work as a computer trainor at DSWD.
Discrimination is not the reason for why those they knew had not obtained work.
The ?big accomplishment? to date is that there has been a growing awareness on the need of PWDs to be mainstreamed, Mendoza said.
Response from LGUs
Local governments, he said, are beginning to be more responsive.
For the first time, he said, the Pampanga government allotted P4.7 million for PWD-related programs. The provincial board approved the budget request of Gov. Eddie Panlilio last week, Mendoza said.
He said that amount surpassed the combined one percent budget for PWDs and senior citizens as required by Presidential Proclamation No. 240.
?The one percent, on its own, is a big help if it is properly used,? Mendoza said.
At the lobbying of the CLFPWD, the Regional Development Council?s sectoral committee on social development has passed a resolution encouraging local officials to create a PWD office and set aside funds for its programs.
To date, PWDs have no sectoral representation in the RDC, Mendoza said.
?That?s what we are fighting for,? he said.
That is one of the avenues to systematize the data banking, especially in knowing whether more PWDs are getting employed or doing gainful businesses.
For now, he said the availability of skills training programs and initiatives to help PWDs are important so they can gain jobs and livelihood.
Access does open a lot of doors, according to Catacutan.
Some of the Atriev graduates are living proof.
Alona Batneg of Baguio City became a medical transcriptionist in 2006.
Julius Charles Serrano, who finished a 4-year computer science course at the STI College in Manila, started the first Daisy Talking Book production in the Philippines while Josefina Olorocissimo works for a research and recruitment team.
For Maricell Fornis, the computer studies helped her get past the tragedy of losing her eyesight from a car accident. Yolanda Naputo said it helped her assist her blind daughter, Shiela, to learn math and reading.