Caught (up) in traffic

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Mobility for persons with disabilities

I saw these two people traveling along Marcos Highway just after the intersection with Imelda Avenue. I think they came from Tahanang Walang Hagdanan in Cainta. The tricycle is actually modified to allow for a person with disability to operate the motor vehicle. The side car is also customized to carry a person on wheelchair. Note that back of the sidecar? It is actually a ramp that is locked when traveling but can be lowered for wheelchairs to roll-on or roll-off. Since there are two persons on the vehicle, the driver’s wheelchair is seen folded and loaded in front of the lady on her wheelchair.

PWD vehicle

Such vehicles allow PWDs to be more mobile. Unfortunately, most public utility vehicles do not have features to allow wheelchair-bound people to ride on them. Such features may be seen in city buses in more progressive cities including those in Japan, Europe and the US. Trains can easily accommodate PWDs including those on wheelchairs as their floors are the same level as the station platforms and there is space inside the cars for PWDs. While access for PWDs is already contained in Philippine laws, there is still much to be done in terms of implementing provisions of such laws especially with respect to road-based public transportation.

Some questions on a gloomy Saturday morning

On gloomy Saturdays like today, I often tend to sort of contemplate on some questions coming from events and articles the past few days. I don’t really want to answer these questions right now and immediately but would rather let these and the follow-ups play around in my mind. I would rather not do some shout outs on social media about these questions as some friends tend to be sensitive and I don’t really want to make a lot of effort carefully framing posts on FB just so they won’t appear to be offending certain persons who might be over-zealous about their advocacies or who would be so defensive of their organizations. Here are some questions running around in my brain right now:

1. Does DENR have the mandate to require sidewalks and bikeways along all roads? Design and implementation-wise, isn’t this supposed to be under the DPWH (for national roads) and the LGUs (for local roads)? Is this more a policy statement? But then shouldn’t this come from DOTC?

2. Is going out of your way really the way to get noticed and be awarded? Are there no points for people doing a great job at what they are supposed to be doing?

3. Shouldn’t an agency first check if they are doing what they are supposed to do and the outcomes reflect their objectives? Are emissions testings and monitoring successful or do we still have a lot of smoke-belchers on our roads? If they already have their hands full with their tasks according to their mandate, shouldn’t they first mind their business before even encroaching into another agency’s tasks?

4. Does media have to give so much airtime to a driver of a luxury vehicle who assaulted a traffic enforcer?

5. Why does it seem to be so much fuzz about Uber? Is it just on social media? Do most other commuters give a damn about it when they really can’t afford availing such services?

6. Are government engineers bereft of an appreciation for the arts, culture and heritage? Are they too mechanical or dumb to understand what planning and design really is all about?

Mobility for PWDs

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.]¬†

IMG07690-20140212-0910A 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.