The term “disability” is a paradox when referring to persons with disability or PWDs. We don’t have to look very far in our history to witness how PWDs are responsible, productive, and reliable members of our society. From politics, business, art, and even sports, Filipino PWDs have shown that they can lead people, win medals, and inspire a nation.
Each year, the contributions of PWDs are highlighted through various events and ceremonies. Pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 1870 signed in 1979, and amended in the year 2000 with President Joseph Ejercito Estrada signing Presidential Proclamation No. 361, the third week of July has been declared the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week. The annual commemoration culminates on the birthdate of the Sublime Paralytic, Apolinario Mabini, on July 23.
The celebration for this year, which is the 43rd, has the theme “Kalusugan at Kaunlaran ng Pilipinong May Kapansanan, Isulong sa Gitna ng Pandemya.” Though there will be no face-to-face events, in the lineup are various online activities and webinars that will highlight the health and economic empowerment of PWDs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is quite unfortunate that one of the most affected in this pandemic are the PWDs as access to transportation became more difficult and companies are downsizing. Modern technology, however, has allowed a lot of them to continue working remotely, and even do online business and e-transactions. With the online economy doing well compared to the traditional bricks-and-mortar store, everyone — including the millions of PWDs — has a chance to earn a decent living and launch a small enterprise.
Though our country has made positive strides to ensure equal opportunities for PWDs, authorities have to strengthen their efforts to ensure that there is no discrimination toward PWDs, whether it is on education or employment. For example, Republic Act No. 10524 states that a qualified employee with disability shall “have the same terms and conditions of employment and the same compensation, privileges, benefits, and incentives as a qualified able-bodied person.” An added provision in the law states that private corporations with more than 100 employees are “encouraged to reserve at least one percent of all positions for PWDs.” Is this being followed? A lot of companies may be amiss.
PWDs are not here to ask for shallow sympathy. Like the theme of this year’s celebration, they want to be empowered as they know that they contribute to the country, some even better compared to other able-bodied individuals. Like Mabini during the Philippine Revolution, he was consulted by the highest authority in the land and by generals who led battles, who trusted his wisdom and strategic acumen. They didn’t care that Mabini was just on his chair, him being a PWD was the last thing on their minds.
In the coming weeks, if it would proceed as scheduled, the Tokyo Paralympics will open. Filipino paralympians will represent the country and raise our flag on the global stage. It doesn’t matter if their bodies have lost a limb or two, they are complete and ready to compete.