Sen. Gatchalian: Ensure Learners With Disabilities’ Access To Health Care Services

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With few more days to go before classes officially reopen, Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure that learners with disabilities continue to receive access to therapies and other health care and rehabilitation services.

While DepEd preparations are underway to provide learning modules to learners with disabilities, Gatchalian emphasized that a comprehensive mapping and action plan are needed so that allied medical professionals, including speech, physical, and occupational therapists can keep providing services to these learners.

Bringing these therapists and health care professionals to the homes of these learners is one way to deliver the much-needed therapies and support services, Gatchalian said. Health and safety protocols have to be strictly observed, however, to prevent further transmission of the virus, he added.

In mapping out access to therapies and other healthcare and rehabilitation services, Gatchalian said DepEd should work closely with local government units (LGUs) who should also be tapped to provide transportation. The lawmaker also pointed out that the input of allied medical professionals is essential in the formulation of an individualized education plan, which identifies a learners’ academic goals in a year and how they can be achieved.

Records from the DepEd show that in 2018, there were 231,631 learners with disabilities enrolled in self-contained classes or those who were not part of regular classrooms. Enrollment records for the upcoming school year show that as of July 15, there were only 51,375 learners with disabilities who have registered.

According to Save the Children’s “Rapid Survey on the Situation of Children with Disabilities in the Context of COVID-19,” 48 percent of its 4,066 participants said they cannot access education services because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The same report said that loss of income and employment among the caregivers and parents of these children hampered access to clinics, health care, and rehabilitation services.

“Sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon para sa mga kabataang may kapansanan ngayong panahon ng pandemya, mahalagang patuloy natin silang mabigyan ng mga serbisyong pangkalusugan upang matugunan ang mga hamong kanilang kinakaharap at patuloy silang makalahok sa kanilang mga klase,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

Gatchalian is the author of Senate Bill No. 171 or the Inclusive Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Act, which seeks to institutionalize the provision of services and assistance to make quality education accessible to learners with disabilities.

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