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BLIND SPOT: Question of Competence

When you’re left with very limited options, what do you do? Well, you pick from those few options; or maybe, you pick the only option because there’s not much of a choice. But being contained with limits or a singular selection couldn’t be so bad. Upon realizing there won’t be much I could do with my eyes, I figured I could blabber my way through the blur, or my digits could do the deciphering. I had listened to radio disc jockeys and thought I could talk by myself (failing to consider that I have to press buttons which need visual recognition. I was told I had to do more than talk. Well, that slipped my thoughts. I managed to get a modest means of income along that line. Some guys fare better; well, relatively that is. Some business establishment actually devote a large number of their work force for persons with hearing impairment. Many of them are quietly operating in the hotel and restaurant industry. It’s quite easier for persons with crutches or on wheelchairs, once barriers on physical accessibility and mobility gets hurdled through. But what about those with intellectual or behavioral challenges? Would an employer give opportunity to a highly skilled and qualified applicant with intellectual disability, or with autism, without a tinge of prejudice or apprehension? Some persons with these challenges would heap up their skills and qualifications with trainings and experience and face fear in human form. Such acceptance would be a rare occurrence worthy of a slot on Ripley’s Believe it or Not. One would think that the National Capital Region would always be the nation’s forefront in development; and naturally would be more advanced in acceptance; yet persons with disability with impressive credentials would have considerably difficult time in finding decent employment, sometimes resorting to odd jobs (or one might call it underemployment) for some time before finally meeting deserved designation. A person with sensory or behavioral challenges could be reeking with skill and talent and disregarded as if they were ornaments. I know someone with civil service eligibility and still struggle in stumbling upon employment. A PWD sector leader recently shared that once in job fair for PWDs, prospective employers refused to hire the PWD applicants How ridiculous. This year, the theme for the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week is “Kakayahan at Kasanayan Para sa Kabuhayan Tungo sa Kaunlaran.”. Well, on the other hand, society would be concerned with competence. Of course, in the context of assigning jobs, the primary consideration should be capability. I understand that a person at a disadvantage should not be allocated with the opportunity of an occupation, just for the simple qualification of having a disadvantage. Disability is and should not be the prerequisite for employment. A person with disability, or with any disadvantage, indigenous affiliation, religious affiliation, sexual preference, economic status or whatever margins there be, are not privileged on a priority lane for a regular paycheck. Rather, they bear equal right and responsibility to satisfy or excel in criterion for vocation and career. A person with a PWD identification document therefore, has the responsibility to develop his competence for the practice of dignity of labor. But then again, shall we deny the stigma on persons with autism, with intellectual disability, or emotional and behavioral disturbance? Shall we turn a blind eye on persons with visual impairment and talent, unable to get regular occupation? Shall persons with hearing impairment having difficulty in interaction, fall on deaf ears? Even the most highly qualified and adequately trained person with autism spectrum disorder or intellectual challenges. Shy from attempts at employment because of discrimination, and prejudice before the whole game even started. A person with disability would spend childhood and adolescence piling up his curriculum vitae, only to battle with the opportunity of putting them into practice. After developing competence, persons who have overcome their challenges struggle a question of competence. And why am I whining? Does a degree in economics from the UP School of Economics, at the University of the Philippines Diliman prepare one for incompetence? Does not obtaining a master’s degree in business administration prior from graduating with a law degree build competence? Does not encouragement of young legal professionals to take on leadership roles, and involvement visiting distant rural communities to provide legal services to residents who would otherwise have little or no access to such services, as well as conduct of legal advocacy by proposing amendments and new laws based on the needs of these marginalized communities, make one competent for leadership? Does not helping rural women to acquire capital in order to become competitive markets, make one competent for public service? So why do we lobby for faith in the competence of persons with disability for employment, when the highest authority of the nation does not recognize competence? “That the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

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