Event: #USEmbassyManila's Forum on #PWDRights: #Diversity and #SocialInclusion

Without a collective effort, denied claims will not be addressed for PWDs. It was a privilege to join the forum on PWD Rights: Diversity and Social Inclusion last Friday. Being one of the physically-challenged, I've felt how the laws have evolved through the years to address the needs of our group in the society. With special guests US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara with panelists National Council on Disability Affairs Executive Director Carmen Zubiaga, Tahanang Walang Hagdanan's Executive Vice President and CEO Joy Cevallos-Garcia, SM Cares' VP for Operations and Program Director of Disability Affairs Bien Mateo and Be-medaled Paralympian Adeline Dumapong, schools and organizations from different parts of Metro Manila gathered to discuss the issues and relevant topics for the welfare of PWDs in the country.  It was delightful to listen to Acting Public Affairs Officer Kurt Hoyer welcoming all of us hosting this forum in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) this month. After listening to all the presentations and the qualms of the crowd in different means to communicate, I was left with a heavy heart realizing how diverse this group is and how difficult it is to synchronize actions to get a bigger voice to the government agencies concerned. From the question of social inclusion vs special treatment, I am in favor of the special treatment. Social inclusion of PWDs especially those with learning disabilities is quite a herculean task for DepEd to accomplish. Although the particular mentally-challenged learners are already immersed in regular classes, the specially-trained teachers for them are just too limited and still lack necessary training to further push the goal of comprehensive education for PWDs. Accessibility is still a major problem for the physically-challenged and lack of awareness on PWD laws all over the country remains the root cause of denied claims of rights. I have to say I felt safer traveling to Krabi, Thailand than visiting a local tourist spot in my own country. This is one clear indication that the government must attend to the rights of PWDs. In fact, it was ironic that US Embassy hosted the forum. We can harness the potentials of getting PWDs to contribute to the country's productivity, only if we all act to include PWDs in all programs and projects. Thank you US Embassy for hearing the voice of PWDs last Friday.