Counting Filipino PWDs

Back in 2010, close to 1.5 million people of the total household population in the Philippines have been persons with disability. Most of them live in Region IV-A and most of them are men.

It was clarified in the report, though, that there were more men age 64 years old below interviewed than women in the same age group. There were also fewer men age 65 years old above because of the higher survival rate of women than men.

Unfortunately, the survey wasn’t conducted until after six years and its results weren’t readily available online till now; the PWDs were said to have refused participation “because the same samples was used by other household surveys conducted on the same quarter.”

The Philippine Statistics Authority, for its part, conducted the National Disability Prevalence Survey/Model Functioning Survey in 2016 to provide “detailed and nuanced information on how people conduct their lives and the difficulties they encounter regardless of any underlying health condition or impairment.” It would have helped “identify the barriers that contribute to the problems that people encounter which in turn help guide policy and development as well as contribute in monitoring Sustainable Development Goals.”

“There is still a heavy reliance on World Health Organization estimates that 10 percent of the country’s given population have some form of disability. The Department of Education claims that less than 3 percent of children and youth with disabilities have proper access to education, due to a lack of teachers trained to handle students with special needs and inadequate allocation of resources for educational materials in alternative formats to accommodate their needs.” ~ Maria Isabel T. Buenaobra


  1. The 2010 Census was released in January 10, 2013.
  2. The Region IV-A, otherwise known as Calabarzon, consists of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon, and Lucena.
  3. Males with disability outnumbered females in the age groups 0 to 64 years. The largest excess in the number of males was in the age group 0 to 14 years with a sex ratio of 121 males per 100 females. On the other hand, there were more females with disability than males in the age group 65 years and over. This is because of the higher survival rate of women than men. In this age group, there were 70 males with disability per 100 females.

Turning Four!

Not everyone is still willing to give persons with disabilities a chance four years after The PWD Forum came about.

In Indonesia for instance, disability is still regarded as a punishment from God. PWDs must be exorcised, tied up at the back of the house (dipasung), confined to a small hut in the backyard, or tied at the wrists and ankles to a tree or heavy log. Disability is also seen as a matter of fate so there is little empathy for PWDs for whom ‘nothing can be done’.

As such, PWDs are excluded from most governments’ planning and support. In Bhutan in particular, its educational policy lack inclusive policy guidelines resulting in unequal opportunities.  Taiwan, on the other hand, has only programs for PWDs with “mild” conditions and the curricula just followed what is being taught in preschool classes.

In South Africa, teachers lack skills and knowledge. In South Korea, teachers know no culturally relevant curricula. In Malaysia, teachers are unprepared in terms of emotional acceptance and technical skills.

It is no wonder then that PWDs are still berated when seeking employment or at work; employers would definitely incur costs from hiring PWDs. Educating them alongside non-PWDs  would not be an easy feat especially that the term ‘inclusion’ itself has no fixed definition even in the western countries from which this concept was realized.

There are also parents who do not understand the meaning of inclusive education till now. Thus, the parents are still anxious with their children attending mainstream schools. Even governments are not sure what the concept really means and how it could be relevant within the local context.

If PWDs and non-PWDs study together, though, there would be no need to build exclusive educational institutions. Adjustment may also come naturally. Maricel Apatan had not been a burden anyway when she was studying a two-year course in Hotel and Restaurant Management in Cagayan de Oro City. She was even hired as a pastry chef at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in Manila.

A polio victim, Marc Joseph Escora, had managed his training at the Negros Occidental Language and Information Technology Center (NOLITC) in Bacolod City. Blind, Safiya Mundus had graduated from the Eusebio C. Santos Elementary School.

The PWD Forum could just imagine what else could have happened had Arnel Navales Aba, Godfrey Esperanzate Taberna, Emilia Malinowska, Jose Feliciano, and Mohamed Dalo finish school. Townsely Roberts had at The College of the Bahamas with an associate degree in Accounting and Computer Data Processing in 1995. Gary Russell had, too, at the same college with an associate degree in Law and Criminal Justice then at the University of Buckingham for his bachelor’s and master’s.

It was from his blind father that former interior and local government secretary Jesse Robredo learned discipline. Protecting the integrity and honor of one’s family is of highest importance, his father had said, and children are expected to contribute their share in doing that. So Jesse launched the “Fully Abled Nation,” a program seeking to increase the participation of PWDs in the coming 2013 Philippine midterm elections, roughly three months before he died in a plane crash.

“Hopefully, one day, the notion behind “persons with disability” be somehow erased from the world’s vocabulary and usher-in a day when technology, private & public organizations, and the law work together to give each person equal rights and opportunities, regardless of the person’s impediment.” ~ Atty. Mike Gerald C. David

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Jozelle Tech

How SPED is in the Philippines

Educating persons with disabilities in the Philippines seemed to be more ideal than what The PWD Forum expected.

In 2012, the Department of Education (DepEd) has allotted P180 million for its Special Education program. That’s a 56% increase from its budget of P115 million only in the previous year!

It has also opened 69 more SPED centers then—from 276 only–where each one can get P500,000 subsidy from the fund for pupil development activities including training, educational trips, camp activities, sports and other events; procurement of instructional materials, supplies and learning assessment tools; and training of more teachers, school heads and SPED supervisors. Then-Education Secretary Brother Armin Altamirano Luistro has entrusted its implementation to division and regional offices.

The DepEd has continued to ensure providing “the necessary educational interventions for learners with certain exceptionalities through its Special Education (SPED) program.” In the program, there could be (1) a separate class for only one type of exceptionality, (2) a teacher who would travel—at home or in schools—to provide direct and consultative services, (3) a designated place where there is a specialized equipment, (4) a chance for a PWD to receive special instructions from a SPED teacher; (5) a possibility to be either partially or fully integrated, and (6) an opportunity for PWDs, regardless of the nature and severity of their disability and need for related services, to receive total education within the regular education classroom.

So for this school year, there would be 40,642 teachers for the  kindergarten and elementary level, 34,244 teachers for the junior high school, and 356 teachers for the senior high school. It will be charged against the new school personnel positions budget of the Department of Education (DepEd), which was allotted P553.31 billion in total this year

“We believe that special learners deserve special attention and specialized learning tools, thus the increase in funding support.” ~ Bro. Armin Luistro

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of the Leonard Cheshire


Partial integration – the PWD enrolled in a special class is integrated with regular children during non-academic activities like work education, physical education, arts, school programs, etc, then gradually integrated in the academic subjects if qualified.

Full integration – the PWD enrolled in a special class is integrated with regular children in all academic and non-academic subjects.

Why Educating PWDs is Better

Learning is important and every individual—with disabilities or none—must have a chance for it. It is notable then that hearing-impaired Hilarion Daen Jr. and blind Edna Blacer would teach special education to students at the Rawis Elementary School in Legazpi City.

Daen Jr., 56, handles kindergarten pupils with hearing deficiencies for two decades to date. He believes that early childhood education is one of the most crucial parts of child development especially for children with impairments.

“Other than making them understand that they are part of the society despite their impairment, it is also important to make them realize that they are not just accepted, but they can also do something for the community, and I, being a hearing-impaired teacher, am the best example,” Daen Jr. was quoted saying in a report.

“Seeing each of my students learn new things every day satisfies me and makes me motivated to stay in this profession,” he added.

Blacer, 45, on the other hand, started teaching with a normal vision. After a decade, though, her vision regressed so she can only recognize letters in relatively large sizes now.

“The current inclusive learning strategy paves the way for these visually-impaired students to see the world in a different perspective, enabling them to take part in community development regardless of their visual disability,” Blacer was also quoted saying in the same report.

Recently, the Department of Education (DepEd) has tallied 471 SPED centers and regular schools catering to elementary students and 177 providing for secondary students. Rehabilitating persons with disabilities during early childhood is crucial because, like what Julia Rees, UNICEF Department Representative has said ,”good care and development during this time increases their chances of becoming healthy and productive adults and lessening the future cost of education, medical care, and social spending.”

“Early childhood intervention can fulfill the rights of children with disabilities in promoting rich and fulfilling childhoods and prepare them [for] meaningful participation in adulthood,” she added.

“I want to tell the kids that even though their situation is difficult, because of their visual impairment, they should not lose hope. They need to persevere. They need the determination to pursue what they want to be and achieve in their life.” ~ Edna Blacer

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of  Rappler

Education for Filipino CYNS

Children and youth with special needs in the Philippines may have a chance for a quality education in the country once the Senate Bill 1732 passes.

Tagged as the Inclusive Education for Children with Special Needs Act, the SB 1732 seeks to “widen the access to quality education for children and youth with special needs (CYNS) in order to provide equal opportunities for all students.” It also aims to establish Inclusive Education Learning Resource Centers in every public school division in the country and ensure adequate pay to teachers.

Of the 649 special education centers that the Department of Education recognizes, only 471 can cater to elementary students and 177 to high school students. There were also only 2,600 elementary SPED teachers and 280 high school SPED teachers.

“Our current public education structure lacks the necessary tools and resources in better assisting children and youth with special needs in their learning environment, and the role of the government is to provide the essential devices and employ the right people who will aid them to do well in a natural learning environment,” Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on education, arts, and culture, was quoted saying in his sponsorship speech.

“Importanteng makapagbigay ng sapat na mga kurso para mabigyan ng sapat na training at kaalaman ang mga teachers upang sa gayon makuha natin ang eksaktong datos. Ilan nga ba at gaano karami yan upang makapaglaan din tayo ng sapat na resources para matugunan ang problema at pangangailangang yan,” he added.

Aside from Sen. Escudero, the other lawmakers that filed the SB 1732 last March 7, 2018 were Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, Juan Edgardo Angara, and Paolo Benigno Aquino.


  1. The bill considers equipping the education sector with “tools and resources to make it responsive to the needs of CYNS as it geared towards integration.”
  2. Children in the Philippines refer to person below eighteen (18) years of age or those over but are unable to fully take care of themselves or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition.
  3. Youth in the Philippines refer to those persons whose ages range from fifteen (15) to thirty (30) years old.

“While we acknowledge the fact that they are in need of special education and care, children and youth with special needs should also be given the chance to live like any other children in our country. It would be best to educate them in such a way that they will be able to interact and learn with children their age.” ~ Sen. Francis Escudero

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of aztecs1953

Education as an equalizer

From Atty. Liza D. Corro, Chancellor of UP Cebu —

I agree with your advocacy in pushing education for PWDs. I am a great believer that education is the great equaliser. More so if one has disabilities, it will be an asset if this person will be equipped with an education, for it will compensate for this person’s inadequacies. As to the strategy how to “mainstream” and accomplish an inclusive education, I have some thoughts on how it should be implemented.

In UP, we are very particular in being able to provide access to education, that no one is denied access, regardless of gender, race, disability, income or for other reasons which may be invoked. Which is why our admission process is designed in such a way that there are “affirmative” actions which can offset or compensate for the disadvantages that a person or entrant may have to a UP education.

But the sad reality is, resources is not limitless. As you have rightly stated, our school budget cannot even cover all of the mainstream students that need to be taught. Currently we have several buildings being constructed in order to accommodate more students, but to maintain these would entail higher budget for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) which becomes then a priority in terms of budget allocation. I truly admire LGUs which are able to set up facilities for PWDs, including its educational component, like the one I know in Lapulapu City called STAC which stands for timulation and Therapeutic Activity Center. It is facilities like this which truly implements the mandate of Republic Act 7277 known as the “Magna Carta for Disabled Persons” which provides that the state shall adopt policies ensuring the rehabilitation, self-development and self reliance of persons with disabilities and their integration into the mainstream of society.

We try our best to accommodate PWDs, primarily like through provisions for ramps for access to buildings, which is quite basic for now. Equipment to assist students who are sight-impaired or hearing disabled, we do not have any of these. I am not aware of any of our faculty who would know how to handle students with such kind of disabilities, should they have them in their classes at this time. However, right now, we are conducting workshops and inviting resource speakers who can teach on how to manage such classes. This is intended to capacitate our teachers in holding inclusive education for PWDs and those who are differently-abled. Researches are also being funded to support how to make education really inclusive in UP.

In UP I like to believe that we are not saddled with such a mentality that disabled persons are a “curse”. Our students, faculty and staff are very tolerant and accepting with individual’s differences. The uniqueness and individuality of persons provides them strength. Right now, we are just constrained with lack of technical training and skills on how to manage differently abled people. I think right now, if resources are not yet available to accommodate our PWDs and the like, we can start off first with the mind set and other cultural hange. There are many who might be tolerant already with PWDs and other differently abled people, but there are still many who need to be made conscious. Simple thing as street signs and symbols and aids for sight-impaired people, we are not seeing them much being provided even in public places. Maybe if those who are implementors are made to feel that these are basic things which do not need much expense, but will be able to help a hundredfold PWDs, then these will be ingrained in their minds to give priority to things like this and lobby for them at the policy makers’ level. This can start off in the budget process, be it in the government and even in the private sector.

As to how to mainstream these PWDs especially through an inclusive education, I am not technically equipped to discuss this. But my thoughts on this, depending on the nature of the disability, the mainstreaming will have to vary. And a combination of immersions by a PWD in formal classes for both the differently abled as well as in regular classes, I think is a good way and beneficial for both PWD students as well as students in regular classes.

Educational institutions holding formal classes will have to consider everyone’s needs. Mainstreaming of PWDs and differently abled people to these formal regular classes will have to consider everyone’s capabilities, from the teacher in charge with the class and both the PWDs and differently abled as well as students in the regular classes. Each and everyone of them will be the best gauge on how the immersion had benefited them.

To end, I like to state that I am in favor of mainstreaming, for as long as it is beneficial to everyone. Institutions will do mainstreaming, not just for the sake of “mainstreaming” but because it will benefit everyone in such a set-up.