Different strategies, programs and interventions for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were discussed Wednesday in an effort to improve delivery of social services for PWDs and make their rights real.
In the first day of the three-day “ASEAN Program Evaluation and Planning Conference for PWDs” at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Quezon City, member countries shared their best practices and different auxiliary services for PWDs as part of their efforts in making the rights of every PWD in conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of PWDs.
Th Philippines is hosting the conference through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) headed by Secretary Corazon J. Soliman.
One of the opening day speakers, Kin Fun Kwok, National Secretary for Hong Kong Rehabilitation International, gave an overview of the different strategies and recommendations they created and implemented for the benefits of PWDs.
“We ensure that all development policies take into account the needs and benefits of all PWDs,”Kin told the conference.
He cited the importance of accessibility, provision of support services such as health-care, financial support, education, vision and hearing screening to lessen the effects of impairment.
Aside from these, he also mentioned the use of sign language in television documentary drama in presenting the inspirational lives of PWDs.
He added that in doing so, they strengthen social protection and encourage the mobilization of private sectors, other organizations and partners to implement the disability perspective.
As part of the strategy, a strong collaboration among non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other non-profit making bodies was crafted with the government as the prime funder, he said.
“We also instituted provision of family care services geared toward developing the capabilities of the families with PWDs to help them respond to the needs of PWDs,” he added.
Suporntum Mongkosawadi, executive director of Father Ray Foundation in Thailand, shared that their social services program is focused on providing education and employment to let PWDs be economically independent and employable aside from making them accessible to public services.
“We give them chance and option like promoting of skills training such as handicraft-making and aid them also in marketing and even in job placement as we conduct job analysis at the same time,” Suporntum said.
He explained that they started vocational training for PWDs in 1984 as they make training based on what the market needs.
In addition to that, he said that they created PWD Hotline 1479 in Thailand which PWDs can call if they want to know about availability of employment or what are the specific programs available that can help empower them.
Hamidah Hassan, principal assistant director on Policy and International Affairs Division of the Social Welfare Department of Malaysia, shared that they are using “job coaches” as one of their strategies to empower their PWDs.
“In job coaches, there are personnel that assist PWDs who go out to work in the public company and assist them as they move around and help them adapt in their job surroundings,” she explained.
She said she is hoping that they can get more information on upcoming programs to enhance and develop more opportunities suitable for PWDs.
Carmen Zubiaga, director of the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), an attached agency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, cited that she expects that very soon more appropriate support services will be crafted for PWDs in the Philippines.
Zubiaga expressed optimism that support for education, training, livelihood and assistive devices for PWDs will become an outcome of the conference for the benefits of more PWDs in the country as a response by the government.
“Let us keep on pressing the government to respond to our needs and make our rights real,” she told the Philippines News Agency in an interview as her message for the PWDs in the country.
In her welcome speech, DSWD Undersecretary Parisya Taradji cited that based on statistics, about 10 percent of the world population consists of PWDs, which means that around 650 million people are PWDs.
Taradji added that about 80 percent of PWDs live in developing countries which differ from one country to another.
“We are pursuing efforts in making PWDs empowered and self-propelling and look at themselves not just as program beneficiaries but rather as partners in development,” she added.
According to her, the Philippine government’s Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) includes families with children with disabilities aged 0-14 as beneficiaries of the program.
She als cited that the government enforces laws that provide for the rights, benefits and privileges of PWDs such as the Magna Carta for PWDs (Republic Act No. 9442).
Among the participating ASEAN countries with delegates in the conference are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and the host Philippines.
The conference, which ends on April 4, aims to develop new strategies to improve service delivery of ASEAN countries to their PWDs population in conformity with the UN Convention on the rights of PWDs. (PNA)