Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Follow Accessibility Law, Building Owners In Northern Mindanao Told

MISAMIS ORIENTAL, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 26, 2010) - Only half the number of government-owned buildings and structures in Northern Mindanao and only 25 percent of private buildings and other structures in the region have complied with the Accessibility Law more than two decades since its enactment in 1982, an official of the Department of Public Works and Highways said.

Architect Raul Trinidad, of the Maintenance Division of the DPWH in Northern Mindanao, said that only 50% of all government buildings in the five provinces in the region have fully complied with Batas Pambansa Bilang 344 while the other 50% have partially complied.

Trinidad also said that 75% of private buildings in the five provinces have partially complied with the Accessibility Law. There are 275 private buildings all over Northern Mindanao which is composed of the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, Camiguin and Lanao del Norte. Most of these buildings are in Cagayan de Oro City.

Some of these buildings that are 100% compliant with BPB344 are SM City Cagayan de Oro, Limketkai Center, Hotel Koresco, Polymedic Plaza and the food establishment Ice Castle.

Architect Richard Tan, district director of the United Architects of the Philippines in Cagayan de Oro, said there is a lack of awareness in the general public about the Accessibility Law, which is why his group is always conducting an updating with its members because they are the ones who design buildings and structures.

“We can’t do anything about the old buildings, but 90 percent of the designs of new buildings are fully compliant with the Accessibility Law,” he said.

Tan also stressed that it is very important to integrate into the construction of new buildings, whether private or public, what is specified in the Accessibility Law and Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities (R.A. 7277) because it will help draw more tourists and therefore more revenue not only for the establishment but for the community.

According to the National Council on Disability Affairs, some of the salient features of a differently-abled or friendly structures or buildings are toilets with grab bars, doors with grab handles, low-installed faucets for wheelchair-bound persons, leveling of curbs at sidewalks, guidance system for blind persons, non-skid flooring, hand showers in bathrooms and movable ramps and lifts.

Dr. Enrique Ampo, chief of the Handicapped’s Anchor is Christ, Inc. and concurrent
director of the City Federation of Persons with Disability Association, said that there really is a lack of awareness in the general public about the Accessibility Law and Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities.

Wheelchair-bound Ampo, a dentist by profession, said that PWDs are basically still being treated outcasts by the general public. He said that when he was at Clark in Angeles City for a seminar, he checked-in to a well-known hotel only to be told that rooms for PWDs are full.

He later learned that occupying PWD rooms are able-bodied guests who prefer to
stay in rooms for PWDs because it is spacious. He also narrated that he asked for a discount after eating in a restaurant only to be told they cannot give him any discount.

He argued that PWDs like him have privileges in the law, but the manager flatly rejected Ampo’s reasoning. Fortunately, the restaurant owner explained that “the manager did not know about the law” and apologized to Ampo.

The law specifically gives 20% discount to PWDs in restaurants; 20% off the prices of medicines; and 5% off shelf prices of groceries.

Mayor-elect Dexter Yasay stressed the key role of the media in raising the awareness
of the public about the laws pertaining to the PWDs.

Joseph Rabanes, vice president of the Opol Federation of Differently-Abled Persons, urged PWDs or DAP not to hide because of their disabilities but to also contribute to society by using their talents and abilities.

Rabanes also urged citizens to stop giving alms to PWDs because “it will only make them lazier and they will not work anymore but depend on the alms of the people.”

“They will now depend on the alms of other people and become lazy. Once they become lazy, they will have no inclination to help themselves anymore,” he said.

Instead of giving alms, Rabanes said that it would be better for able-bodied persons to teach PWDs or DAP the skills that they can use to earn income. (Bong Fabe)

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