“Nothing about us, without us.”

This is the firm advocacy of National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) led by its Acting Executive Director Carmen Zubiaga as it promotes persons with disabilities’ (PWDs) participation rights in decision-making processes.

NCDA Executive Director Carmen Zubiaga shares the vision
of a non-handicapping environment.

 Zubiaga discussed inclusive, barrier-free, and rights-based society to LGU officials and heads of offices, NGAs, and PWD representatives during the City Stakeholders Forum on Disability Inclusive Development on 21-22 January in Tacurong City.
“The rights of persons with disabilities (PWD) go beyond accessibility in infrastructure; we need to hear their voices as we plan for development programs,” said Zubiaga.

To be able to participate, PWDs should be organized in communities.

“Being organized gives them a collective voice. They will definitely be acknowledged,” Zubiaga said. “We have to groom them into negotiators and lobbyists,” she added.

Promotion of PWD participation in political and decision-making processes is among the goals set by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP), known as the Incheon Strategy to Make the Right Real for PWDs. Other goals include poverty reduction and increased employment prospects; enhanced access to physical environment, public transportation, knowledge, information, and communication; strengthened social protection; expanded early intervention and education of children with disabilities; gender equality and women empowerment; disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction and management; and improved reliability of disability data.

Equipped with understanding of the Incheon Strategy, participants of the stakeholders’ forum prepared a plan of action towards being a PWD-friendly city. This plan contains programs and activities for each goal in the Incheon Strategy. Workshop facilitator Cynthia Barriga of NCDA also helped participants in preparing the composition of the proposed City Committee on Disability Affairs.

“We see the need to pass an ordinance for the realization of PWD rights in the city, in support to the national laws,” said Councilor Charito Collado, Chairperson on SP Committee on PWD. Mayor Lina O. Montilla and Regional Director Olivia Sudaria of PIA XII also supported this cause to increase awareness and involvement of PWDs in the city.
Gary Bano, PWD Federation President of Tacurong City was somewhat overwhelmed with what he has witnessed for two days:  “Wala ko kabalo nga makaabot kami sa amo ini..nga may amo gali sini para sa amon. Nami panumdumon kung matuod ini tanan nga mga plano. Salamat sa pagsali sa amon, (I did not know we will come this far..I did not know that there is something like this for us. Thank you for involving us).”

In an inclusive, rights-based, and barrier-free society, there is no room for discrimination on gender, age, religion, disability, etc. According to Mike Penalosa of CHR XII, people are entitled to participate in the development process; everyone is accountable.

(L-R) ABC President Hernane S. Fermo, Councilor Charito Collado, and
CSWDO Eufemia Robles with NCDA Exec. Director Zubiaga

President Benigno S. Aquino III, through Proclamation No. 688, declared the period of 2013-2022 as the Philippine Decade of ‘Make the Right Real’ for persons with disabilities (PWD) in support of the 3rd Asian and Pacific decade of persons with disabilities.

Jezereel Louise C. Billano