This post comes from Mona Pindog, a Research Assistant on the W-DARE Program based at the Social Development Research Centre at De La Salle University in Manila. In this post, Mona provides an update on the implementation of recent supply-side interventions, which aim to address barriers to access of SRH services for women with disability in Quezon City and Ligao City.
Earlier this year, W-DARE kicked off activities with two Disability and Gender Sensitization workshops held in Ligao City and Quezon City. The aim of these workshops was to improve understanding and awareness of gender-sensitive, disability inclusive health service provision for women with disabilities, and provide guidance around how this can be achieved, through visiting and auditing selected ‘Model’ health facilities. Participants at the workshop in Legazpi City held from 7th to 10th January included representatives from the Ligao City Health Department, Ligao City Social Welfare Department, Ligao City Planning Department, the Paulba Barangay Captain and her Barangay Councilor on Committee of Health, as well as representatives from the Paulba Persons with Disability Federation, the Provincial Health Office, and the Simon of Cyrene Community Rehabilitation and Development Foundation Inc., Also in attendance were the dean of Bicol University College of Medicine, and the Chief Medical Officer of Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital as well as the Public Health Department head. Dr. Jesusa Marco, Jerome Zayas, and Jocelyn Garcia of WOWLEAP, a W-DARE project partner, facilitated the workshop.
The second Disability and Gender Sensitization Workshop was held from the 4th to 6th of February in Quezon City. Participants included representatives from the Quezon City Health Department and Social Services Development Department, Quezon City Gender and Development Resource Coordinating Office, Quezon City Protection Center, the Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO), Quezon City PWD Federation and Barangay Batasan Hills. Ms. Pam Averion-Godoy and Ms. Rio Otara of UNFPA and Ms. Prescilla Cuevas of the Department Of Health (DOH) were also in attendance. Dr. Carol Sobritchea from the University of the Philippines Center for Women Studies (CWS), also a W-DARE project partner, facilitated the Gender and Violence Against Women (VAW) aspects of the workshop.
In addition to discussions on gender and disability inclusion, participants at each workshop visited proposed model health facilities: the Paulba BEMONC in Ligao City and the Batasan Hills Super Health Center in District II of Quezon City. The purpose of these visits was for workshop participants to assess the features and capacity of each facility to provide disability inclusive health, and in particular sexual and reproductive health, information and services to women and girls with disability. A matrix which allowed participants to assess accessibility for persons with disability in relation to travelling to the service, the service entrance, the building logistics and built environment, health and SRH information and emergency evacuation procedures was provided as a guide.
During the Quezon City walk-through, participants were also encouraged to adopt a ‘gender lens’ and to consider accessibility for, and inclusion of, women, the elderly, and children in health service provision and access. As a result of the walk-through visits, workshop participants identified a range of issues and considerations relating to the accessibility of the model facilities for women with disabilities. Some of the key issues related to understaffing, over-demand of services, and inaccessible information for persons with vision impairments, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Physical barriers were also discussed and included cramped waiting areas, small numbers of toilets, a lack of accessible toilets for women with disability and issues accessing the location of services (such as stairs but no ramps or elevators to facilitate access for wheelchair users). Some of the recommendations suggested for overcoming these barriers included making changes to the built environment such as the inclusion of ramps, ensuring signs and information is presented in accessible formats (including Braille and large print). Other recommendations focused on building the capacity of staff to assess the needs of women with disabilities, and provide accessible and inclusive health information and services.
Participants reported several ‘lessons learnt’ as a result of their involvement in the sensitisation workshop and walk-through of the model facilities. Whilst participants expressed disappointment about what they observed in relation to barriers to accessibility for people with disability, they reported an increased understanding of why people with disabilities (and women with disabilities in particular) are not accessing the free health services available. Participants also learnt to discern whether elements of their environments are hindering or facilitating the accessibility of persons with disabilities.
Findings from the walk-through visit and the accessibility audit have informed the development of other W-DARE interventions, including the development of a manual for disability inclusive health services and information.