PWDs and the 2016 National Elections

Long lines and missing names on voter’s lists are just some of the usual problems that most normal voters face during elections. Although it is challenging enough for them to travel to their assigned precinct, some PWDs in wheelchairs are even assigned to vote on the upper floors.  Given that most public schools only have stairs, voters in wheelchairs would then need assistance to reach their station. Visually impaired voters on the other hand are sometimes left in their voting seats with printed election ballots.

Improved Voting Experience for PWDs and Senior Citizens

A considerable number of PWDs admitted that they were not able to cast their votes in previous elections because of various difficulties. PWD supporting groups have been urging the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to make voting centres more accessible in the coming 2016 national elections. To make voting easier to PWDs and senior citizens, the COMELEC had announced their plan to hold 2016 national elections in shopping malls. Several shopping malls around Metro Manila today are considered PWD-friendly like Greenhills Shopping Centre and SM Supermalls.

Earlier in November, Megaworld Corporation and Eastwood Mall have prepared a mock-up voting centre located at the ground floor of the mall. COMELEC Chairman Juan Andres Bautista then announced that over 159 malls nationwide will serve as voting centres in the coming 2016 national elections. A public consultation was then held last November 27 where Oscar Taleon, head of Alyansa ng may mga Kapansanan, suggested the COMELEC to properly spread information about where PWDs should vote.

How to Reach your Assigned Voting Center

Now that the search for better precincts is being addressed, PWDs and some senior citizens still have one thing to think about – reaching the assigned voting center.  Lifelifters, a specialized transportation system is one easy solution. Their vans are equipped with hydraulic lifts so that PWDs in wheelchair can easily board. The interior is also equipped with safety restraints to prevent the wheelchairs from moving. Lifelifters can also install hydraulic lifts and safety restraints to your Toyota Hiace or Grandia and Hyundai Starex.

 

Raising up his marked finger as a sign of voting. Indelible ink was used in the last election and it might be used again for the 2016 national elections
Now, more voters can vote and build the country’s future in the coming 2016 Philippine National Elections. ( DoD photo by Master Sgt. Dave Ahlschwede, U.S. Air Force. )

What PWD Really Means?

Have you ever tried asking your friends or random people if they knew what “PWD” means? When we did a survey, many young adults responded that this acronym means “password” or “pwede”. Others correctly answered that PWD means “person with disabilities.” We then asked them how they define PWDs. What do they imagine when they see or hear that word? Most of them answered that these are people are either in wheelchairs or just completely blind. But what about the deaf, mute and those with physical deformities or intellectual handicaps, are they PWDs? Before we define who they are, it is best suited to answer this first:

People on the autism spectrum might look normal upon first impression
Some disabilities are not visible at first. (Photo from CC Search)

What does “disability” mean?

Under the Philippine law, disability means “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more psychological, physiological or anatomical function of an individual or activities of such individual…” It is a broad definition but not everyone can be immediately classified as PWD. Applicants for PWD ID are required to submit a clinical abstract signed by a licensed physician.

“Impairment”, “Disability”,and “Handicapped”

Most of the time, these terms are interchangeably used on a daily basis. These terms, however, are of different meanings and applications. “Impairment” is any loss or deformity of physiological, psychological, and anatomical function or structure while “disability” is the lack of ability to perform an activity of an individual. “Handicapped” is the disadvantage that limits the individual from performing a certain task.

Who are the Persons with Disabilities (PWD)?

According the Philippine law, under Republic Act (R.A) no. 7277 or the Magna Carta for the Disabled Persons, persons with disabilities or PWDs are

“those suffering from restriction or different abilities, as a result of a mental, physical or sensory impairment, to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal.”

This includes people who are deaf, mute, blind, epileptic, physical malformation, mentally challenged, and affected by stroke or other serious medical condition. People who have experienced stroke or heart attack are sometimes considered as PWDs too, at least to some extent.  The next time you see someone park at PWD slot even though he looks normal – think twice. Some impairments are not immediately obvious. One way to easily identify our PWD friends is through their PWD IDs.

Different Disabilities Requires Different Needs

An aid to one type of disability may not be effective for other types.  For the visually impaired, guide dogs and audio announcements on public utility vehicles is one way to help them in everyday life. While for those who are physically impaired, a specialized transport system or mode of transportation should be made available for their mobility. For those who are deaf and mute, a sign language translator should be provided on television programs. Road assistance is also a must since car horns or other audio warnings will not be viable.