By Uriel C. Quilinguing, Contributing Editor .
MANY public and commercial multi-level buildings in the city have remained non-compliant with the 1983 Accessibility Law, the provisions of which are still in effect until today, leaders of a persons with disability (PWD) group said.
Local PWD council chairperson Rolando Damaolao, visually impaired since birth, lamented that many offices of government agencies and commercial buildings here are unfriendly to him and other people with special needs.
Damaolao said that among the city’s shopping malls, only the structures of SM City Uptown and Downtown Premier have separate toilets for PWDs equipped with grab bars, with doors are as wide as wheelchairs, and have installed Braille buttons in their elevators for the visually impaired.
Maria Liza Corpuz, who heads the local PWD Affairs Office, agreed with Damaolao that many public buildings and multi-story structures such as hotels and business arcades were found to have deficiencies during the Office of the Building Office-initiated “access” audits last year.
While the four-story City Hall has been equipped with an elevator, ramps, and grab rails which facilitate movement of PWDs, the Capitol building, which was constructed before the Second World War, does not have a lift.
People, who are on wheelchairs or are using mobility aids such as scooters, walkers, canes, crutches or prosthetic devices, may no longer take the stairs to reach the third level of the Capitol building from the first.
“Of course, there are considerations for buildings that were constructed before the passage of the accessibility law,” said Corpuz in reference to Batas Pambansa 344, which is known as the Accessibility Law.
Born with polio, the PDAO head recalled that after the access audit of several multi-story hotel buildings last year, common deficiencies were on toilets, absence of grab rails on stairs, too stiff ramps and absence of elevators.
OBO with PDAO recommended corrective measures to hotel owners and these were complied with, she said.
Among the commercial structures that were subjected to access audits last year were Dynasty Court Hotel, N Hotel, New Dawn Hotel, Mallberry Business Suites, and Oasis Condominiums.
Corpuz, however, clarified that inspections and “access” audits of public buildings such as schools, police stations, barangay halls, government hospitals and health centers under the city engineering offices and/district offices of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
She said that even the DPWH regional office is not compliant; of the observations was that the ramps are covered with tiles, posing risks to PWDs.
Meanwhile, Ma. Dolores Mercado, a nurse from the Department of Health in Region 10, said all hospitals and health centers in Cagayan de Oro and elsewhere in Northern Mindanao are expected to be PWD-friendly.
“These are licensed to operate only if the structures follow model designs that are inclusive of our clients, including PWDs,” Mercado said.
Once again, representatives of the OBO, DPWH and PDAO are set to conduct access audits of public and commercial buildings.
Despite these, PWDs have reasons to celebrate though during the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week.
Card-bearing PWDs can avail of 20-percent discounts on medicines, basic goods, in restaurants, fares, as provided for under Republic Act 10524 which expanded the benefits and privileges granted to differently abled persons.
And, soon, as proposed in Congress as well as in the 18th City Council, all legitimate PWDs will be entitled to a monthly pension.
Damaolao, Corpuz and Mercado were discussants in a Talakayan forum of the Philippine Information Agency Tuesday at SM Downtown Premier here.