One challenge most PWD have accessing services is the lack of transport and if there are available means, often are not accessible. Most of the time I argue that “in the real world” without external help from NGO people just have to deal with what is there because once they leave, funds run out, people will just have to deal with the reality and make the decision to win over it and access the services or let it win over them and be miserable.
The Philippines one of the first country to have disability law, long before I was born (or maybe I am just a baby), and many other neighboring countries in SEA copied that and adapted in their own culture and context.
But let’s be honest, our respect for people with disabilities still very low. The law does not reflect that in the way our public services are run in this country – people with injuries, disabilities, elderly and other vulnerable groups are second-hand citizens who have to keep pushing and fighting to get to the front of the row and be heard. We’re making some long overdue development but not in the area of public transport.
With my current situation, I am hanging by the “estribo” and observing how a simple visit to the hospital can be a big production.
Before I get carried away, let me re-tell here a little bit of my accessibility and transport challenge and share a few insights on how situations can be improved.
So, when I arrived in the Philippines, coming from a 24-hour journey, around 10,000 kilometers away, I was picked up by a van whose driver doesn’t know how to help me get in from my wheelchair. Which was an insult to the amount of care I had from the hospital to the airport to the plane until I deplane in the Philippine airport.
I just told my sister, 5 weeks post-injury and surgery that no amount of experience in rehabilitation, teaching, demonstrating and grading students prepared me to be a patient but in the case of the last stretch to home – that experience helped a lot!
The airport support staffs are not trained to handle people with disabilities and doesn’t know how to do handling and trasnfers. My teaching skills helped a bit, giving simple instructions how to position the chair when I transfer seats because I don’t want to have more injuries.
Having been pampered from the first and second leg of the journey, my expectations of the third and last leg would be exceptional, simply because it’s home and I pride myself on being Filipino – we go the extra mile! But I was mistaken.
My injury is not life-threatening and I received the best care possible, so there really was no need to be fuzzy and feeling special. But after a long journey, in a cast, I was ready to collapse and be lifted by my family that will receive me at home to bed. Instead, I have to struggle to go in a van using my butt again and endangering my leg hitting the ground in case I lost my grip.
The driver of the van doesn’t know how to help me get in. I was expecting my pick-up to be similar to the ones I had in Tunisia or at least it was meant to pick-up passenger like me and drivers have training on how to handle situation like mine.
Practiced what I preached, I sucked it up and made the situation work for me, anyway in a couple of hours I will be in my family home. In the end, the driver was nice, he drove well and he was not properly briefed, so why shot the messenger.
That experience was a month ago, I am over it but I have to take a cue on my experience to drive a point on the issue of accessible transport at the same time upgrading the skills of our drivers.
I don’t drive myself, but if I do, I would undergo a first-aid training to be prepared in events of an accident and in my case, to at least know how to handle people in delicate situations. If I do a survey now and ask how many of the drivers in my village knows CPR or how to carry someone or what not to do in cases of accident, I will have a lot of success finding how many DO NOT know that those who do.
Proper transfer technique, from the wheelchair or any assistive device to cars, bus, train even plane and in the Philippines to jeepney (that is something to think about) is a good skill to have. One reason why drivers don’t care about PWD and the elderly is that they don’t understand our (the disabled part not the elderly!) situation, we should make them understand by training them simple transfer technique so they will feel useful and helpful.
Last but not least, and the most important is to require drivers to have a mandatory re-examination of the traffic rules and regulations and their driving skills at fairly regular intervals – five years maybe?.
I don’t know if it will increase accessibility to transport but what I do know is that it will increase peoples understanding of disability, increase their compassion towards their fellow-men and appreciate their abilities by providing them the opportunity to be mobile and the road will be safer if drivers are more responsible.