The Inbox

Accessibility issues dog Divisoria malls

By Imee Charlee Delavin and Marvic Masagca, VERA Files

The streets of shopping haven Divisoria in Manila are again jammed as the Christmas season among Catholics in the country starts Sunday and the shopping frenzy escalates.

After all, Divisoria has a wide range of goods to offer—from clothes, footwear, jewelry to toys and school and office supplies, to fresh and green vegetables and fruits—priced far, far cheaper than in many other places. The district itself has a variety of shopping outlets: malls, markets, both wet and dry, tiangge and street hawkers.

As many like to say, Divisoria is "everyone's go to"; it is a "place for everyone."

Not quite.

Emilia Tigor, who used to be a regular at Divisoria, said even the malls there are not hospitable to persons with disabilities (PWDs) like her—unlike many of those located elsewhere.

The Saturday afternoon she was in Divisoria weeks before Christmas, the 56-year-old amputee was struggling to make it through the rowdy and crowded streets with her wheelchair.

"Mahirap, mahirap. Kailangan may magtutulak o magbubuhat talaga sa 'yo. Wala kasing madaanan ang wheelchair. Kung nasa loob ka naman, hanggang dun ka lang talaga sa baba kasi kadalasan di naman gumagana ang mga elevator (It's difficult. You need someone to push or lift your wheelchair because there are no provisions for wheelchairs. If you're inside, you often have to just stay at the ground floor because the elevator is often not working)," Tigor said.

Republic Act 7277, the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, prescribes a "barrier-free environment" to ensure that PWDs should have proper access in private and public buildings and establishments.

An earlier law, Batas Pambansa 344 or the Accessibility Law, provides that "no license or permit for the construction, repair or renovation of public and private buildings for public use shall be issued unless the owner or operator thereof shall install and incorporate in such building, establishment, institution or public utility, such architectural facilities or structural features as shall reasonably enhance the mobility of disabled persons such as sidewalks, ramps, railings and the like."  The law mandates the Department of Public Works and Highways to see to the implementation of this provision.

The minimum architectural facilities and features included in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of BP 344 are walkways, corridors, doors and entrance, washrooms and toilets, lifts/elevator, ramps, parking areas, switches, controls, buzzers, handrails, thresholds, floor finishes, drinking fountains, public telephones and seating accommodations.

Despite the laws, many structures in Divisoria, including those in the malls, seem to overlook the provisions for the PWDs. The basics such as such as ramps, handrails, functioning elevator and comfort rooms specially designed for the PWDs are lacking, if not functioning.

At the Tutuban Center, there is no ramp outside for the entry and exit of PWDs. Though there is ramp inside, it is too steep for a wheelchair.

At the 168 Shopping Mall, the ramp near the entrance is used to transport goods because it is not PWD-friendly at all. An architect interviewed for this story said the ramp is too steep and there is no handrail which is a requirement in building ramps specifically designed for PWDs.

Other malls like Juan Luna Plaza Shopping Mall, for example, do not provide ramps for PWDs at the main entrance. Juan Luna Plaza Shopping Mall's elevator is located at the far back of the building, which is hard to find. Getting there would be hard for PWDs, especially those in wheelchairs, because of the stalls that occupy the walkways and corridors.

It's the same with the newly built 999 Shopping Mall:  There is also no ramp near the mall entrance.  The mall has a comfort room exclusively for PWDs, but it is locked and no attendant is always available.

A civil engineer who tracks mall designs said in an interview that a number of malls in the Philippines are usually hit and miss when it comes to PWD accessibility. And it all boils down to what he calls the mall's "philosophy."

Some malls, for example, also fail to provide enough resting areas.

"Philosophy kasi ng mga malls yan e. Walang pahingahan para laging mapilitang maghanap ng bibilhin yung mga tao (That is a mall philosophy. There are few resting areas, so people are forced to browse for more things to buy)," the civil engineer said.

The civil engineer also said the Philippines lags behind other countries in terms of PWD accessibility laws.

He said reserved parking lots for PWDs in the Philippines, for example, can be used by a non-PWD because there is no way of knowing who the car owner is. In the US, PWDs have special car plates that indicate that the car owner has a disability.

These problems can be addressed, he said, through proper enforcement of the laws, as well as updating them to further remove barriers to the full participation of PWDs in society and enjoyment of their rights.

Removal of obstructions that may endanger a person with minimal or no sight
Clear signage that points the direction of the facility, generally identifiable, non-glossy to prevent glare, distinguishable color, and has reasonable text size
Furniture such as resting areas and public telephones that can be used by PWDs and does not obstruct pedestrians
Free pathways that are non-slip, wide enough for wheelchair users, detectable and free from obstruction
Curb ramps that are easy to identify, located strategically, and do not exceed the slope of 1:12
Accessible parking facilities marked by signage, PWD parking properly enforced, and accessible to entrance areas
Ramps that are wide, clear of obstructions, identifiable, and not steep
Elevators that are identifiable, have embossed numbering or employee assisted, and with visual and audio signs indicating arrival at a floor
Platform lifts that can be operated manually, with controls not exceeding the height of 1.21 meters
Stairs that are not too steep, non-slip and with slip-resistant strips
Railings that are easy to grip, identifiable, secure, and continuous except when interrupted by pathways
Accessible entrances that provide ramps if needed, non-slip, and at least 0.9 meter wide
Doors that can be opened with little effort, with handles easy to grasp, and have sufficient space
Corridors that are obstruction-free and maneuverable
Restrooms that have sufficient space and can be easily used by PWDs
Source: United Nations

The authors are senior journalism students at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. This story is a wrap-up of the reports they submitted on accessibility of shopping malls for the journalism seminar class "Reporting on Persons with Disabilities" under VERA Files trustee Yvonne T. Chua.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for "true.")


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Militants want US Marines pulled out of Negros
    Militants want US Marines pulled out of Negros

    The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) is calling for the pullout of US Marines who arrived in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last Wednesday to train Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and members of the allied forces. The SAF commandos and the allied forces will secure the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meeting in this city. Bayan-Negros secretary general Christian Tuayon said the US troops might violate the human rights of activists, especially those …

  • North Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills
    North Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills

    North Korea fired two missiles into the sea on Monday and vowed "merciless" retaliation as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre rattling. "And if there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the North …

  • Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together
    Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — After spending 67 years together as devoted husband and wife, there was no question how Floyd and Violet Hartwig would end their lives — together. …

  • China subs outnumber US fleet – admiral
    China subs outnumber US fleet – admiral

    China is building some “fairly amazing submarines” and now has more diesel- and nuclear-powered vessels than the United States, a top US Navy admiral told US lawmakers on Wednesday, although he said their quality was inferior. Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for capabilities and resources, told the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee that China was also expanding the geographic areas of operation for its submarines, and their length of …

  • Hijacked Indonesian vessel found in Davao
    Hijacked Indonesian vessel found in Davao

    An Indonesian cargo vessel that was hijacked a month ago in North Sulawesi, Indonesia has been found stuck in the waters off Mati, Davao Oriental, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported yesterday. PCG spokesperson Armand Balilo said the PCG- Southeastern Mindanao district was informed on Feb. 23 that the M/T Rehoboth was found aground off Barangay Cabuaya. Four personnel from the local PCG district office were sent to verify the report. The vessel was reportedly hijacked by …

  • Pacman mega fight tax exemption up to Congress, BIR
    Pacman mega fight tax exemption up to Congress, BIR

    Malacañang is leaving it up to Congress and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to consider a proposed special tax exemption for boxing icon Manny Pacquiao in his much-awaited fight with Floyd Mayweather. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday it will have to be discussed by Congress because lawmakers are the ones who enact tax exemptions, special or general. Pacquiao has been dogged by unsettled tax obligations with the BIR. …

  • Binay backs house arrest for JPE, GMA
    Binay backs house arrest for JPE, GMA

    Vice President Jejomar Binay yesterday supported proposals to put Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo under house arrest. “Government prosecutors are opposing house arrest for… Enrile. Binay issued the statement after the 91-year-old Enrile was rushed to the Makati Medical Center on Thursday due to pneumonia. House arrest for him would be the compassionate thing to do,” he added. …

  • 3 Pinays on Forbes power women list
    3 Pinays on Forbes power women list

    Three Filipina executives, who are all daughters of known business tycoons in the country, made it to Forbes’ list of the 50 most powerful businesswomen in Asia. Teresita Sy-Coson, vice chairman of SM Investments and chairman of BDO Universal Bank, was included in the list for the fourth year in a row since its inception. “Under her (Sy-Coson) lead SMIC became the largest listed company on the Philippine Stock Exchange by market cap. Also in the 2015 list is 70-year-old Helen Yuchengco-Dee, …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options