I came early for the test. They say it’s supposed to be a diagnostic test. I had been concerned on how I would be going about it. I had brought my issue to my direct superior who in propriety brought the matter to the division office. Days later, I was told by a staff at my head’s office, that I should bring speakers in taking the test. (Speakers? Can’t a headset do? Okay, I’m assuming they have the program installed on their PC or they would let me copy the file.) So, I was there; waiting for whatever accommodation they have prepared; that is, in the assumption that my inability to conventionally take the test has been clearly forwarded to persons in authority. The guys there whom I presume were IT support guys, seem startled to meet an examinee with a white cane; that they had to excuse themselves, presumably to consult a superior, or to confer among themselves. After some minutes of waiting seated on a monoblock chair by the door while examinees who had entered the room were already answering questions on PC units, one of the supposed IT guys came to me that they would solve this dilemma by having one of them read the questions and click the responses for me. I gladly welcome that. So I sat before the assigned PC unit, with my reader beside me. He asked for personal details. I gave them to him. He read question number one and the options. I gave my response. He read question number two… and stopped. There was a chart. The reader excused himself. He returned after a few minutes to tell me that I would be excused from taking the test; and that my attendance would be noted. No problem. I went out and I didn’t mind.
However, is not adequate technology accessible and available free of charge? Installation of assistive software could have been accomplished with ease, in coordination with corresponding technical support, and tested days before the examination. Even in the absence of the screenreader application, and in the aid of a live reader, appropriate accommodations could have been employed in explanation of charts, diagrams, graphs and some images. But the stationed personnel seemed to be at a loss for assistive technology. The willingness to bend a little and offer accommodation is commendable; but it went so far as item 1. I do understand that it would be difficult to translate illustrations to oral communication. But having brought the matter close to a week before the date, exemption would have been decided and confirmed; had it been its end after all.
In reflection, it seemed a significant part of society has disabled its senses from advocacy for inclusion of persons with disability. Have these sort not been written about and featured on periodicals? Have not these stories been talked about over the radio? Have not the likes of Korina Sanchez and Jessica Sojo made segments of such on television? A TV show as popular as Maalaala Mo Kaya has more than once portrayed struggles and successes of persons with orthopedic handicap, with visual impairment, with intellectual disability, among others. Then, these touching stories would be topic of conversations in offices, corner sari-sari stores, and canteens. Don’t non-government organizations and concerned government agencies hold campaigns for awareness of this? Perhaps, accommodations for inclusion of persons with disability can only reach such state – fantastic stories that people would love to watch, listen to or hear about, read about, and talk about; but shy away when confronted in the flesh, in their faces. Maybe for some, accommodations for persons with disability are more or less inspirational forms of the Avengers or Deadpool or the Incredibles – characters with stories media audience get thrilled at; yet would be unprepared when encountered face to face because after all at the back of the audience’s minds, something like that wouldn’t happen in their personal lives. So a significant part of society remain as readers, listeners, viewers, enthralled and awed; yet not moved into action; and worse, are dumbfounded when faced with the challenge to action.
July is Persons with Disability Month in Naga City. July 17 to 23 is National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation NDPR Week. “The City Government of Naga wants persons with disabilities (PWDs) to be accepted in a regular classes in public schools in the city. The City Government is now in coordination with the Department of Education (DepEd)-Naga to realize the said plan.” (bicol.politics.com)
But how could we include persons with disability when many sectors remain excluded, the poor, drug dependents, government servants of a different political party affiliation, the faithful; and on the international level, immigrants, Muslims, and every other seemingly group with different representation. Indeed, how could we?
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female,…”