Senator Win Gatchalian hailed President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of a landmark law, which would ensure accessible education and related services for learners with disabilities.
Republic Act No. 11650 titled “Instituting a Policy of Inclusion and Services for Learners with Disabilities in Support of Inclusive Education Act,” provides that all public and private schools shall ensure equitable access to quality education to every learner with disability, such that no learner shall be denied admission on the basis of disability.
Gatchalian emphasized the timeliness of the law’s signing considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on learners with disabilities. For School Year 2021-2022, enrollment among learners with disabilities is at 93,895, 74% lower than the pre-pandemic figure of 360,879 for School Year 2019-2020. Previous estimates from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) suggest that there are 5.1 million Filipino children living with disabilities.
“Bago pa tumama ang pandemya, napagkakaitan na ang maraming learners with disabilities ng dekalidad at abot-kamay na edukasyon at iba pang mga serbisyo. Napapanahon itong bagong batas para sa ating mga learners with disabilities dahil matitiyak natin na hindi na sila mapag-iiwanan sa gitna ng pandemya,” said Gatchalian, who sponsored the law.
Even before the pandemic hit, Gatchalian pointed out that challenges like accessibility of basic facilities, infrastructure, and transportation, among others, already hamper learning opportunities for children living with disabilities.
Under the new law, the Department of Education (DepEd), in collaboration with local government units, shall initially establish and maintain at least one Inclusive Learning Resource Center of Learners with Disabilities (ILRCs) in every city and municipality in the country. ILRCs will serve as a one-stop shop for the delivery of free support services to learners with disabilities and the implementation of inclusive education programs.
ILRCs will be manned by multidisciplinary teams composed of experts such as educational psychologists, guidance counselors, developmental pediatricians, physical therapists, speech and language therapists, special needs teachers, and other allied medical professionals.
In crafting the law’s implementing rules and regulations, minimum services and conditions will be set in the admission systems and policies of all schools, including the provision of assistive devices, facilities and infrastructure in the admission process, and other forms of reasonable accommodation, among others.