Amid the celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Senator Win Gatchalian reiterated the need to institutionalize accessible and disability-responsive education services nationwide.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture pointed out that before COVID-19 hit the country, access to education was already a challenge for children living with disabilities.
While there are as many as 5 million children living with disabilities based on estimates by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), there are only 439,700 enrolled in Department of Education (DepEd) schools last year. A study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) in 2017 identified that households’ financial challenges and the lack of educational facilities are among the reasons why children living with disabilities cannot go to school.
Disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these challenges. According to Save the Children’s “Rapid Survey on the Situation of Children with Disabilities in the Context of COVID-19” conducted last May, 48 percent of the 4,066 participants said they could not access education services because of quarantine measures.
Senate Bill No. 1907 or the “Instituting Services and Programs for Learners with Disabilities in Support of Inclusive Education Act,” which Gatchalian co-authored and sponsored, aims to address these challenges which according to the lawmaker will be key in rebuilding the education sector from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To foster equitable opportunities to educational services and programs, the proposed measure declares that no learner with disability shall be denied admission and inclusion in any public or private basic education school in the country.
“Sa ating pagbangon mula sa pinsalang dulot ng pandemya ng COVID-19, kailangang siguruhin nating tinutugunan ng ating sistema ng edukasyon ang pangangailangan ng ating mga mag-aaral at kabataang may kapansanan. Sa pamamagitan ng mga reporma at panukalang batas na ating isinusulong, mas matitiyak natin na walang batang may kapansanan ang maiiwan sa ilalim ng new o better normal,” said Gatchalian.
Under the proposed measure, DepEd will collaborate with local government units (LGUs) to establish and maintain Inclusive Learning Resource Centers (ILRC) in every city and municipality. ILRCs will deliver free support services and inclusive education programs for learners with disabilities and will be staffed by a multidisciplinary team composed of professionals including special education teachers, psychologists, guidance counselors, social workers, interpreters, and other allied medical professionals.
The proposed measure also institutionalizes the Child Find System (CFS) to identify, locate, and evaluate learners with disabilities who are not receiving basic education services.