ZAMBOANGA CITY, July 17 (PIA) - Due to the initiatives and partnership of the local government unit, national government, non-government agencies and the private sector, more and more persons with disabilities (PWDs) are enjoying full-time employment and other benefits in the city of Zamboanga, says PWD rights advocate Teddy Kahil.
"Employed PWDs have become more visible in private companies and in government offices," Kahil, current president of the Asia-Pacific chapter of the World Blind Union (WBU) said. "We are very thankful that these institutions have become more sensitive to the qualifications of the PWDs who now have achieved their professions. Many PWDs in Zamboanga now enjoy careers that offer professional growth."
Kahil said that PWDs not only excel in the field of employment, but even in school, PWDs have become more recognized. "Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) produced a blind cum laude earlier. This year, WMSU also produced another blind cum laude who graduated from the College of Social Work and Community Development," he added.
Mayor Beng Climaco meanwhile thanked the different agencies and partners that helped make Zamboanga City a PWD-friendly city. "We are here to make sure that PWDs enjoy their rights and privileges, and we are thankful to the different agencies for helping us in this endeavour," she said.
Yet, given these news Kahil shared that certain issues still remain in other parts of Zamboanga Peninsula region. He stressed that there are still local government units outside the city that have no PWD Affairs Office.
"Republic Act 1070 mandates the creation of this office, as this office will ensure that all PWD concerns in the province or municipality are addressed," Kahil said. The Zamboanga City PWD office is an example of a best practice, he said, since this office is largely responsible for the good welfare of PWDs here. Kahil's representation was instrumental in the creation of the office in the city through the City Council.
Kerwin Serrano, President of the Zamboanga City PWD Federation is concerned that still, some buildings are non-compliant to the accessibility law. "There are ramps that are too steep, some toilets are not PWD-friendly," he said.
During the recent national elections, Serrano was alarmed when he received news of PWDs having difficulty in reaching their polling centers. "Some were asked to go to the second or third floors to vote, but these people are on wheelchairs. This is very dangerous for them. I myself being on a wheelchair had to struggle to reach my own polling center because pathways are not well-connected," he added.
Serrano calls for more sensitivity to the needs of PWDs among all sectors of society. On the other hand, he called on PWDs to be educated, to know their rights and be determined to achieve their dreams.
July 17-23 is National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) Week. In Zamboanga City, the celebration kicked off with a motorcade and an opening program participated in by hundreds of PWDs at the City Coliseum. Activities for the rest of the week include a series of advocacy campaigns, PWD sports fest in the Coliseum, mass media engagements, a stakeholders' forum, and the culmination activity on July 23. This year's theme is "Lokal na Pamahalaan: Kabalikat sa Pagtupad ng Karapatan ng mga Taong May Kapansanan." (ALT/DIS/PIA9-Zamboanga City)