"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Polling precincts in 2010 must be disabled-friendly

Batting for the active participation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in May 2010 elections, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to ready disabled-friendly polling precincts all over the country.

Gordon, author of the amended Automated Elections System (AES) Law, issued the call as the Comelec gears up for the full automation of the country's electoral exercises on May 2010.

"As early as now, we must ensure that the more than eight million Filipinos with various disabilities can have full and active participation in our country's most vital democratic process," he said.

Gordon, former co-chairman of the Congressional Committee on Automated Elections System, pointed out the one of the objectives of the amended automated elections law he authored was to enable more disabled Filipinos to exercise their right to suffrage.

"We must enable them to participate in elections so that they can themselves protect and further their welfare and interests. As we move to automate the May 2010 elections, we should have persons with disabilities foremost in our mind," he said.

Government's conservative estimates reveal that as of 2000, there are only about 942,098 registered PWDs all over the country, the bulk of whom are from Southern Tagalog with 144,289, while about 109,236 are in the National Capital Region.

He said, for instance, voting machines should be able to read out the names of candidates for the blind.

"We are working to ensure that the Automated Election System Law is implemented in a way that will give our disabled brethren a greater voice in our elections because their voice truly matters," said Gordon.

Apart from voting machines, he also said Comelec should ensure that there are adequate access ramps for people in wheel chairs and personnel who can assist people with disabilities.

Barangays, he said, may even organize a shuttle service that will ferry the disabled from their homes to polling precincts.

Gordon pointed out that the Comelec should ensure the PWDs' participation in the electoral process since the country is a main sponsor of resolution 56/115 on the "Implementation of the World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons: Towards a society for all in the 21st Century."

Furthermore, he cited that the Accessibility Law, or Batasang Pambansa No. 844, was passed to increase the mobility and access of a group of disabled persons to public offices.

Gordon also cited Republic Act No.7277, also known as "An Act Providing for the Rehabilitation, Self-Development, and Self-Reliance of Disabled Persons and Their Integration into the mainstream of Society and for Other Purposes," passed in 1995.

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