Continued access to health care for students with disabilities urged

Published August 6, 2020, 11:49 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

The Department of Education (DepEd) should ensure that students with disabilities will continue to receive access to therapies and other health care and rehabilitation services once classes opens on Aug. 24.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

With few more days to go before classes officially reopen, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said DepEd should work closely with local government units (LGUs) in making sure that medical professionals can reach the homes of these students to provide support services while health and safety protocols against COVID-19 are strictly observed.

“Sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon para sa mga kabataang may kapansanan ngayong panahon ng pandemya, mahalagang patuloy natin silang mabigyan ng mga serbisyong pangkalusugan upang matugunan ang mga hamong kanilang kinakaharap at patuloy silang makalahok sa kanilang mga klase (While education continues even for students with disabilities at this time of a pandemic, it’s important that we can provide health services to them so they can face the challenges and they can participate in their respective classes),” Gatchalian said in a statement.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture  stressed a comprehensive mapping and action plan is needed so that allied medical professionals — including speech, physical and occupational therapists — can sustain these services to these students.

“Bringing these therapists and health care professionals to the homes of these learners is one way to deliver the much-needed therapies and support services. Health and safety protocols have to be strictly observed, however, to prevent further transmission of the virus,” he said.

The senator said the LGUs can be tapped to provide transportation for these medical professionals.

The lawmaker  pointed out that the input of medical experts is essential in the formulation of an individualized education plan, “which identifies a learners’ academic goals in a year and how they can be achieved.”

In 2018, DepEd records show there were 231,631 students with disabilities enrolled in self-contained classes or those who were not part of regular classrooms. However, enrollment records for the upcoming school year show them dwindling to 51,375 as of July 15.

According to Save the Children’s “Rapid Survey on the Situation of Children with Disabilities in the Context of COVID-19,” 48 percent of its 4,066 participants said they couldn’t access education services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report also said that loss of income and employment among the caregivers and parents of these children hampered access to clinics, health care, and rehabilitation services.