Inclusive transport also covers persons with disabilities or PWDs as some people refer to them. Persons with disabilities include the blind, crippled, deaf, mute, and others who are physically challenged and therefore would have their movements limited or restricted. There are laws which provide for the needs of persons Republic Act 7277, which is the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities. Specifically, for accessibility, there is Batas Pambansa 344, “An Act that seeks to enhance the mobility of disabled persons” by requiring buildings, establishments and public utilities (e.g., transport) to install facilities or devices to enable use by PWDs. These include ramps at pedestrian sidewalks and at the entrance/exit of buildings. These should also include elevators and other devices to help “physically-challenged” or “differently-abled” persons up and down buildings including those elevated LRT/MRT stations. [Note: Quite frankly, I don’t really like all these supposedly politically correct terms but will nevertheless use them in this article.]
A man on a wheelchair crosses the intersection at Katipunan-Aurora.
Unfortunately, most public transport vehicles are not PWD-friendly. Most buses and jeepneys do not have provisions for PWDs and, on most occasions, do not even bother to stop to accommodate PWDs, especially those on crutches or wheelchairs. The LRT and MRT are now just too crowded even for able bodied people to endure (especially on a daily basis) but access to the elevated stations have always been an issue as there are limited escalators and elevators either seem to be frequently out of commission or there are none at certain stations. A high profile public official even suggested at one point during his stint with Metro Manila that PWDs and the senior citizens should just stay home rather than travel; hinting that these people would just be a burden to others when they travel.
This is not the case in other countries. I have seen in Japan, for example, that city bus designs can readily accommodate PWDs and this includes low-floor buses for easy access between the vehicle and the sidewalk. Bus drivers fulfill their responsibilities of stopping and assisting persons on wheelchairs to board and alight from their buses even if it means they would have to compensate for their scheduled stops. Then there are those I’ve seen riding the BART in San Francisco wheeling themselves in and out of the trains and stations with ease.
Addressing the transport needs of PWDs is definitely an area that needs proper attention especially as groups advocate for inclusive transport. Persons with disabilities are an integral part of our communities and enabling them to travel is a big factor towards encouraging them to be productive despite their physical limitations. They are not asking us to pity them but instead empower them to be the best they could become given the opportunity to be productive, to contribute to society. As such, they deserve the facilities and services that will enable accessibility and mobility that is at the same time safe for them and everyone else.