The US Embassy Manila successfully hosted a forum entitled, “PWD Rights: Diversity and Social Inclusion” at the Charles Parsons Ballroom of the US Embassy in Roxas Boulevard, Manila City.
The forum, conducted in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was attended by almost 250 participants from the Philippine government, students from schools with special education (SPED), Philippine National School for the Blind, Philippine School for the Deaf, NGOs, and Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) members. They had engaging interaction with the panelists composed of National Council on Disability Affairs Executive Director Carmen Zubiaga, Executive Vice President and CEO of Tahanang Walang Hagdanan Joy Cevallos-Garcia, Paralympian powerlifter Adeline Dumapong, and SM’s Vice President for Operations and Program Director of Disability Affairs Bien Mateo.
In his inspirational message, Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara admitted that PWD laws in the country are works in progress and much needs to be done starting with the public’s awareness level specifically on the Accessibility Law and the Magna Carta of Disabled Persons. Angara promised that he will further push for bills which will make a difference in the lives of the PWDs such as the VAT exemption for PWDs, the Comprehensive Anti-discrimination Bill, the Inclusive Education Act, and the Paralympic Athletes’ incentives and benefits from the Philippine Sports Commission.
However, Angara strongly appealed for the Filipinos’ support in order to overcome the hurdles and challenges of the passage of the bills.
For his part, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg highlighted that the US government is a strong advocate for equal access to education, employment and other social services for PWDs. He said that ADA prohibits discrimination against PWDs and ensures disabled students’ full participation in the educational system.
Ambassador Goldberg also recalled several activities of the US Embassy which started last year to raise awareness on the importance of inclusion of PWDs, such as a forum on disabilities with Miriam College, wheelchair basketball clinic with the NBA legends, and promotion of PWD skills and music during the July 4 celebration in which blind singers and rondalla on wheels were honored. He further encouraged everyone to be advocates for the rights of the disabled.