At last, a law giving PWDs more access to education
The recent signing of Republic Act No. 11650 or the Inclusive Education Act of 2022 was well-received by special education experts, as well as learners with disabilities and their families, as the law gives these learners more access to education.
Before the law was enacted, learners with disabilities like myself faced a harsh environment where disability is seen as “inability,” with no regard for our skills and competences. Aside from the lack of understanding and empathy for our plight, there are other obstacles to learning, such as the lack of training among teachers and the lack of facilities, services, and equipment needed to handle learners with disabilities. Some private schools even deny these learners admission. I remember my mother recounting that when I was in Kinder 2, she had to sign a waiver stating that in case of disruptive behavior on my part because of developmental delays, I would be forcefully withdrawn from the school even in the middle of the school year. Luckily, such disruptive behavior didn’t happen.
This law would finally address our family’s previous concern as it would integrate an inclusion policy in both public and private schools. An example of this is the individualized education plan, where both the learner’s parents and developmental experts design a plan to ensure that the learner with disability could meet the educational requirements needed.
Under this law, all cities and municipalities are required to establish at least one Inclusive Learning Resource Center (ILRC). The Department of Education (DepEd) used to mandate at least one Special Education (SpEd) center in all school divisions. With the new law, school districts in each province are now expected to organize SpEd programs in areas where identified learners with disabilities are located.
All existing SpEd centers shall also be converted into ILRCs with expanded powers and functions. This would be a relief to families of learners with disabilities in remote areas since these learners can now go to a school center with enhanced services, facilities, and equipment within their city or municipality.
Before the law was signed, special education in the Philippines was inaccessible to those who need it most. Because despite DepEd’s insistence, the government rarely allocated funds for it separately, with the resources allocated under the DepEd’s Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses. One of the few instances, when the government allocated a separate budget for special education, was in the 2020 General Appropriations Act, although the amount was lower than what the DepEd had requested.
This law now allots a separate budget for it—the Program Support Budget to be used for the functions of the ILRCS and the Inter-Agency Coordinating Council, as well as for the delivery of other services to learners with disabilities.
As a person with disability (PWD), I’m hoping that future learners with disabilities would not endure the struggles I once faced. I also hope that disability support services would be integrated not just in basic education but also in higher education, in the workplace and as part of social services.
Nevertheless, our struggle as disability rights advocates should not end here. We must ensure that this law, together with other laws for PWDs, is properly implemented, so we can all live in a society where inclusion and acceptance are a way of life. As PWDs, we must learn to speak up and stand for our rights.
RONALD G. DE GUZMAN JR.
Disability Rights Advocate
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