MANILA - Upgrades to Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs) should not be limited to free wi-fi or cashless payments, it should also benefit persons with disabilities (PWDs), according to PWD groups.
Members of the various PWD groups said ramps and spaces for wheelchairs are not the only upgrades that can be included in the government's transport modernization plan.
For members of various PWD organizations who gathered outside the office of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on Tuesday, it’s also about making sure that everyone can ride these vehicles, whether they are able or disabled.
The groups are urging the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the LTFRB to consider their proposals to make the prototype new PUVs more accessible.
More than adding ramps and space for wheelchairs, their proposal includes:
-audio and visual announcement systems;
-terminals for land, air and sea transport with accessible facilities;
-directional tactiles on floors;
-disability awareness, proper assistance and sensitivity training for drivers, operators and front-line personnel.
Abner Manlapaz of the Life Haven Center for Independent Living said the transport modernization program is the perfect opportunity to implement these changes after decades of being mere promises or words in the law.
He said their group hopes the accessibility elements would be made mandatory in all the prototype vehicles being produced for the PUV modernization program. He said not all the prototypes presented at the Philippine Transport Expo had adequate accessibility features.
"Ang kinakatakot namin, maraming hindi accessible. Paano kung yun ang piliin na bilhin o dun mag-invest ang mga operator, yung nagnenegosyo sa transportasyon," he said.
"Ibig sabihin, hindi na naman accessible yan. So, napakaraming mga taong may kapansanan ang hindi makakasakay, mananatiling hindi makakapag-aral, hindi makakapagtrabaho, hindi makakatulong sa kasambahay sa pamilya nila. Mae-exploit sila, magiging pabigat kami. Ayaw po naming mangyari yun," he added.
The PWDs who participated in the program said their usual commute is currently difficult and costly. Thus, they cannot go to work and earn enough for their families.
Joaquin Paulino IV, who rides a wheelchair, said he endured commuting from Bulacan to Makati for 10 years for his job.
He said he fell down the steps going up buses several times and experienced being turned down or left behind by buses or jeepneys. He had no choice but to hail taxis which cost more than his daily salary.
"Kung isang kagaya namin na mahihirap na PWD, paano kami makikipagsabayan sa kapwa namin. Mayroon kaming talento, galing, nag-aral kami, ngunit wala pa rin. Talo sa pamasahe, talo sa trabaho. Ngunit kung magkakaroon ng modern na jeep, kaya namin pumasok, kaya namin mabuhay," he said.
The LTFRB sent a representative to receive the group’s statement and position paper. Board member Aileen Lizada also told the group via phone their concerns would be relayed to the transportation department.
DOTr Assistant Secretary Mark De Leon said giving access to PWDs was one of the reasons behind the transport modernization program, assuring them that the doors of buses are now mandated to open to the sidewalk and doors made wide enough for ramps.
“[The groups] can address their specific comments to the individual manufacturers who produced the prototypes. In fact, comments to the prototypes are welcome before they start mass producing the units," he told reporters.
The PWD groups plan to continue monitoring the changes to be implemented in the move to improve public transport.