Commissioner Grace Padaca of the Commission on Elections Saturday called on PWDs and seniors citizens to register and vote, pointing out that the COMELEC is doing all it can to ensure their accessibility, in compliance with Republic Act No. 10366.
They can even be candidates, said Padaca, who met with leaders of PWDs and senior citizens in Bacolod Saturday to listen to their concerns.
During her childhood, Padaca survived polio and has walked with crutches for most of her life. In 2004 she won the governorship of Isabela province.
The country’s COMELEC won the 2013 Accessibility Award over other Asian nations given by the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies, she said, but added that a lot of work still needs to be done.
She said that when PWDs and senior citizens register to vote they now have to fill up a supplementary data form stating their disability and the type of help they will need on election day.
The Department of Education and Department of Public Works are now also building classrooms that are PWD accessible, that will make voting easy, she said.
For old school buildings used as polling areas that need accessibility ramps, Padaca appealed to civic clubs like the Rotary for help in addressing this need.
Padaca was in Bacolod City Saturday for an Upholding Life And Nature (ULAN) accessibility audit presentation of polling places nationwide.
The human rights lawyers’ group audited the accessibility of schools in 17 towns, one for every region, including Cadiz City in Negros Occidental.
ULAN executive director Ronaldo Gutierrez, in his group’s audit report posted on www.pwdfiles.verafiles.org, said their findings show that there is a need for the repair of pathways in voting areas, for sturdy ramps and railings, hallways suitable for wheelchair-users, wider precinct doors, and well-lit and ventilated rooms.
Having polling places on ground floors does not mean they are automatically accessible, the report said.
The ULAN report showed that while two of every three surveyed schools had polling places on the ground floors, only half of these had paved pathways.
Only one in four had ramps for wheelchair-users, and these were not always sturdy. There were cases where makeshift ramps were made of plywood.
School grounds in the provinces are much larger and may make it harder for PWDs to get to polling places, he said.
He also reported that it is not just how the classrooms are built, but how PWDs would reach the school where they are supposed to vote during elections.*CPG
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