Prior to the pandemic, persons with disability already faced multiple layers of marginalization as well as various challenges and barriers that prevented them from becoming fully engaged in society.
The spread of COVID-19, however, placed further burden on PWDs and their families – including the rise of unemployment amid the diminishing opportunities in the job market.
Project Inclusion Network (PIN), a non-profit organization supported by UNILAB Foundation and dedicated to empowering PWDs to fully participate and contribute to their communities, conducted a timely and relevant study called “Moving Toward Disability-Inclusive Recovery in Employment and Livelihood in the time of COVID-19.
The study, implemented through the support of global financial services firm JPMorgan Chase & Co., and endorsed by national government agencies – the Department of Labor and Employment Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (DOLE-BWSC), Employees Compensation Commission (ECC), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) – aims to see how the pandemic affected PWDs’ access to information and services, work and entrepreneurship prospects.
PIN focused on three major methodologies: key informant interviews, administration of a national survey, and conduct of focus group discussions.
From July 14 to August 14, 2021, a countrywide survey was conducted via online and through phone for individuals who had trouble accessing devices. There were 619 respondents coming from 15 regions across the country.
Based on the study, 72 percent of the employed respondents reported negative effects to their income, through no-work-no-pay arrangements, reduced working hours, and temporary and permanent lay-offs.
In terms of access to information, there was an observed lack of compliance to laws requiring provision for sign language interpreters and closed captions or subtitles in the content of video formats, making it difficult for those hard of hearing and persons with visual impairment.
“We will not stop working until we reach total inclusion, until everyone is heard, valued, and considered. It is our responsibility as duty-bearers that everyone’s voices are heard,” said Ana Dione, Labor Undersecretary for Regional Operations, Labor Standards, and Special Concerns Cluster.
Because of their limited ability to adjust, PWD individuals who kept their jobs became more vulnerable. According to the survey, 20 percent of the respondents work in a variety of businesses, ranging from food and beverage stalls to manufacturing companies. The pandemic had an impact on 93 percent of PWD respondents who ran businesses, resulting in lower sales and the temporary or permanent closure of their businesses.
The research team of PIN recognized the need to access capital, technical expertise, and market to support individual and group enterprises to start, earn, and grow.
“We understand that the pandemic has further exacerbated their need for employment opportunities. For those who wish to start their business, our agency has support programs for this,” said Lydia Guevarra, DTI director of Resource Generation and Management Service.
In terms of the key strategy to support low-income families during the early stages of the pandemic, the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) was a government initiative to equip the marginalized sectors with the means to provide for the basic needs of PWDs.
The results regarding this, however, were not encouraging. Only 38 percent or 235 of the respondents indicated having received cash from the SAP, while 18 percent or 111 of the respondents said they did not receive any form of support due to the lack of information on how, when, and where to register for the benefits.
“The battle cry of PWDs is to never leave anyone behind,” said Negros Occidental Rep. Ma. Lourdes Arroyo.
“Let us always remember and keep in mind that PWDs are able, and need to be part of society. We need to come together now, more than ever, because inclusion only thrives and lasts when communities work together, and when the work is shared by all,” added Dr. Rex Bernardo, President and Trustee of Project Inclusion Network.
Cora Clarin, a Person with Disability Affairs Officer (PDAO), said: “We need to be consulted, we need to be heard because we are the best spokesperson for ourselves. I know that I have an important role in ensuring that our community is not left behind.”
The full copy of the report can be read through the following links: https://bit.ly/PINStudyReport and https://bit.ly/PINStudyReport_AccessiblePDF
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.