Toward a barrier-free Philippines

August 14, 2019 | By: ARCH. REYNALDO M. CRISTOBAL JR. (first published in The Manila Times last August 13, 2019)

Back in 2013, the Land Transportation Office registered over 3.58 million motorcycles, including tricycles, in the entire country based on the Department of Transportation (DoTr) website. This is roughly four times the number of registered cars in the country, which is about 830,000, based on the same report. Given these data, this would mean that the two- and three-wheeled vehicles are dominating Philippine roads. And that the four-wheeled vehicles are a “minority” when it comes to numbers.

These statistics beg the hypothesis: what if our transportation infrastructures were all designed to just accommodate only the “majority.” This would mean smaller roads, a denser traffic, undersized parking slots and other transport features, which are relative to smaller vehicles. An entirely different picture emerges. A picture that may not be so unfamiliar as some smaller towns, barrios and provinces still have these streets that were earlier designed for just carrying calesas and caruajes.

Back in 2013, the Land Transportation Office registered over 3.58 million motorcycles, including tricycles, in the entire country based on the Department of Transportation (DoTr) website. This is roughly four times the number of registered cars in the country, which is about 830,000, based on the same report. Given these data, this would mean that the two- and three-wheeled vehicles are dominating Philippine roads. And that the four-wheeled vehicles are a “minority” when it comes to numbers.

These statistics beg the hypothesis: what if our transportation infrastructures were all designed to just accommodate only the “majority.” This would mean smaller roads, a denser traffic,
undersized parking slots and other transport features, which are relative to smaller vehicles. An entirely different picture emerges. A picture that may not be so unfamiliar as some smaller towns, barrios and provinces still have these streets that were earlier designed for just carrying calesas and caruajes.

The United Nations (UN) seeks to address this predicament of PWDs in its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Released in September 2015, building on the principle of “leaving no one behind,” UN adopted these agenda for sustainable development. Specifically, in goal number 11, the intergovernmental organization envisions to “build sustainable cities and communities, fully adopting and implementing integrated plans and policies towards inclusion” (SDG, 2015).

Social inclusion as defined by The World Bank in its website, is “the process of improving the terms on which individuals and groups take part in society – improving the ability, opportunity and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of their identity.” Practically, this means eliminating discrimination, providing employment opportunities to PWDs and, more importantly, creating a barrier-free environment through accessibility.

This is what the collaboration of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) Committee on Accessibility and the Makati Central Business District (CBD) Chapter has been continuously working on these past years. Led by Committee Chairman architect Jaime Silva, the committee members include architects Don de Vera, Vanessa Lagman-Ledesma, Michael Frederick Lazo, Richard Miren Franco, Sophia Avendaño, Erika Vixeen Dia, Norvim Mallari, Aimee Gandia-Mallari, Murielle Gallardo-Cristobal and yours truly.

In 2017, the UAP Makati CBD Chapter was acknowledged by the Philippine Foundation for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled Inc. (PFRD) and won the prestigious Apolinario Mabini Award as Volunteer Group of the Year. The Apolinario Mabini Award was launched by PFRD in 1974 to recognize individuals, groups and agencies that have outstanding contributions to PWDs, and to promote wider recognition of disabled persons as self-respecting, self-reliant and productive members of society.

The UAP Committee on Accessibility and Makati CBD Chapter have accomplished significant projects towards the strengthening and implementation of the Batas Pambansa Bilang 344 (BP 344) or the “PWD Accessibility Law of 1982” through cooperation with various national government agencies, local government units, and non-government organizations such as the Leonard Cheshire Disability Philippines Foundation Inc. (LCDPFI) and The Asia Foundation and Humanity and Inclusion. BP 344 aims to enhance the mobility of disabled persons by requiring certain buildings, institutions, establishments, and public utilities to install facilities and other devices such as disabled ramps and accessible toilets.

In 2015, the collaboration made a milestone by reviewing and proposing amendments to the BP 344 implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to reinforce and amplify its capabilities. This proposed amendments in illustrated form are already made available through the Department of Public Works and Highways website. Not long after, in another monumental endeavor, the committee, together with the local government of Barangay San Lorenzo, Makati and the Persons with Disabilities and Co. through the leadership of Ms. Josephine Ona, conducted “The Search for PWD Friendly Establishments” across the whole barangay where they administered PWD Accessibility Audits to a total of 34 buildings from Aug. 5, 2017 to December 4 of the same year, in celebration of the International Day of PWD.

Other noteworthy PWD accessibility-related activities of the committee include the PWD Accessibility Audits of various hotels along Metro Manila in coordination with the Department of Tourism back in 2016; of schools in Quezon City in coordination with The Asia Foundation and the Department of Education in 2018; of the 2020 Southeast Asian Games Paralympics facilities and the Clark International Airport, in coordination with the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently-Abled and the DoTr. These on top of numerous seminars being conducted to spread awareness and support on PWD accessibility.

Aside from working with different government offices, the committee together with the Makati CBD chapter has also provided pro-bono services to various private companies such as HSBC, Accenture, Telus and Unilever Phils., in coordination with LCDPFI. The group does ocular inspection and assessment of the structures and facilities which are matched against a total of 18 categories but focusing more on the four key accessibility features, namely disabled ramps, accessible toilets, PWD parking slots and signages.

Based on the minimum standards and technical dimensions set by the BP 344 IRR, the committee measures the required facilities while explaining the context and reasons behind such requisites, and records all the data gathered on the audit forms. Additional points and commendation are given to companies who go the extra mile by providing other peculiar details such as brailles on signages, readily available wheelchairs on public spaces, and programs such as emergency evacuation simulation concerning PWDs and the like. A complete report with detailed dimensions and recommendations are given to building administrators within two to four weeks upon audit to help educate the public and promote social inclusion and PWD accessibility.

At the end of the day, social inclusion is achievable once we all come together to achieve a common goal, in support of our differently-abled countrymen, the PWDs in our midst. Being technically equipped to promote a barrier-free environment, the architects will always push for accessibility in every project they design and execute to see a nation where nobody gets left behind. But, until such day comes, the UAP Committee on Accessibility and the Makati CBD Chapter, will always be ready to lend a helping hand to those who want to see this dream become a stark reality.

Ar./EnP. Reynaldo M. Cristobal Jr, UAP, PIEP, RMP is a member of the United Architects of the Philippines Committee on Accessibility since 2017. He is also a regular contributor to the Papyrus, the UAP Makati CBD Chapter Official Newsletter.

Source: https://www.manilatimes.net/toward-a-barrier-free-philippines/599460/


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