Path to inclusion: La Salle college guides PWD learners

Patty Pasion
Path to inclusion: La Salle college guides PWD learners
The De La Salle - College of Saint Benilde envisions to fulfill the 2015 Incheon Declaration, which seeks to achieve inclusive education by 2030

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Accommodating persons with disabilities (PWDs) in higher education has always been an uphill battle. Due to their varying limitations, accepting PWDs has not been easy and for colleges and universities.

This is the challenge the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (CSB) wishes to overcome with their Center for Inclusive Education.

“We want to create a society that’s not just thought of us equal but equitable. We want to make sure that people who need support to be able to access higher education get the necessary support that they need to be able to access it,” said Dr Catherine Deen, the center’s director.

CSB’s advocacy towards inclusive education started in 1991 when they introduced a short course for persons with hearing disabilities. This was developed into a full program by 2000 and eventually became the School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies.

From accomodating only those hard of hearing, the college has expanded its reach to persons with different disabilities such as visual and orthopedic impairments, learning disabilities and autism.

Services and facilities

All courses are open for PWD students so long as they pass the entrance exam of the school. Deen said they give special examination for these students as long as there is formal diagnosis of their condition. They are also provide with a special test center that is free from distractions.

Upon entry, they offer their main service – case management – to their students. They work with the doctors and parents to identify the students’ needs and monitor them to ensure they successfully finish their courses.

Those with doctors’ recommendations are also given consideration by pacing their course load and extending the time they need to finish their education.

Aside from these services, the school also set up PWD-friendly facilities for their students, such as a ramp for wheelchair-bound students, a braille printer, and an exclusive learning center for distraction-free studying. (READ: Cavite, Cebu schools prepare PWDs for employment

STUDENT LEARNING CENTER. Students of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde have access to the Student Learning Center, a learning resource that offers free tutorials and other learning services. Photo by Patty Pasion/Rappler

Ramps are a common sighting inside De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde for wheelchair-bound students.

A braille material printer for visually-impaired students.

Incheon declaration

Despite the big strides they are making in pushing for inclusive education, Deen said this advocacy still has a long way to go in the Philippines.

Some of the challenges she cited – which they are experiencing themselves – are the lack of willingness among teachers to teach PWDs, students concealing their condition, and failure to get employment after college – scenarios also present in most higher education institutions. (READ: Job matching site promotes employment for PWDs)

But while they are working on these limitations, the government also has to do its part in advocating inclusive education. The Philippines is one of the signatories in the United Nations’ 2015 Incheon Declaration that seeks to achieve inclusive and equitable education for all” by 2030.

Lagging behind

Currently, the National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA) only has a list of 10 colleges and universities in Metro Manila accept PWDs. Not all of these higher education institutions accomodate a wide range of disabilities.

NCDA Chief Information Officer Rizalio Sanchez said pushing for schools to be PWD-friendly, is difficult for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) because institutions – both public and private – are in a way autonomous. CHED, however, is offering scholarships for PWDs taking 4-year courses to alleviate their struggles in schooling.

Although NCDA continues to campaign for inclusive education, the government has yet to make this a priority. He said the Philippines is extremely lagging behind when it comes to programs for PWDs. (READ: LGU empowers persons with autism through employment)

“When I went to Japan for a training in 1996, they said we are 20 years behind in our disability programs. When I went to Korea in 2008, they said we are 10 times more developed than them in 1960s but now we are 6 times poorer,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez said PWDs, like abled bodies, has dreams they wish to fulfill and rights they are entitled to that the government must ensure to provide. –

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Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.