Commuting is not just hard in Metro Manila – it’s nearly impossible. Everyday commuters are in constant fear of ridiculously long lines, dilapidated train cars that could halt to a stop any minute, and highways that turn into parking lots for hours.
Photos provided by Project SMILE and Joshua Gantuangco
Commuting in the city as a PWD often is not even an option, especially for wheelchair users, wherein it’s difficult for them to even get into a public transportation vehicle.
“Kung sasakay kami sa jeep o sa taxi, ang tagal po namin kasi marami pong driver na ayaw kami isakay (If we were to ride a jeep or a taxi, it would take so long because many drivers don’t want to give us a ride),” Judy Alferez, a watch repairman and wheelchair user, admitted. This is in fact illegal according to R.A. 7277 or the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons. Judy has had the need to find a traffic enforcer to help them hail a jeepney or cab so that the drivers can’t refuse him.
“Kapag wala akong alalay, mahirap kasi yung wheelchair isasakay pa [sa jeep]. Yung mga iba kasing jeep [drivers], walang pakialam… Magdidisturbo ka pa ng mga ibang pasahero para makasakay pa,(When I don’t have someone with me, it’s hard to bring my wheelchair inside [a jeep]. Other jeep drivers don’t care… I’ll be getting in other passenger’s way just to get in.)” Judy explains.
Unlike in developed countries around the world, public transportation in the Philippines is not built to accommodate wheelchair users. Buses and jeeps have steep footboards to get inside their cramped seating areas. Only a handful of train stations in the city have actual working elevators. Even tricycles, the smallest mode of public transportation, requires one to crouch in a confined sidecar that is wide-open to possible accidents.
Instead of commuting, Judy has resorted to other methods to move around the city. As a member of the ALKASAMOPI (Alyansa ng may Kapansanan na Nagmamaneho ng Sasakyan at Motor sa Pilipinas) , he and many other wheelchair users have modified motorcycles and sidecars to become wheelchair motorists. They even have a group chat wherein they operate as a service to pick up fellow wheelchair users from one place to another.
Innovation in the works
But the lack in PWD-friendly public facilities and the widespread stigma that PWDs face are what has fueled ALKASAMOPI and founder Joseph Delgado to create the very first PWD-friendly tricycle. With similar blueprints from the modified motorcycles and sidecars that they already have, the organization has engineered their first prototype tricycle that can easily and efficiently transport wheelchair users from one area to another.
Not only can wheelchair users ride this tricycle, but they can also drive it too. This invention is Joseph and ALKASAMOPI’s answer to the lack of financial opportunities for PWDs. “Ang ibang company ay nagdidiscriminate na kaagad sa mga PWD na aplikante (Some companies discriminate immediately towards PWD applicants),” he shared. Instead of applying for jobs in such companies, wheelchair users now have the option of earning a living as a tricycle driver with their own vehicle.
The prototype PWD-friendly tricycle entails a more spacious sidecar that has a lowerable rear side that doubles as a ramp for wheelchair users. The sidecar also comes with an attachable seat to accommodate non-PWDs as well. As for the motorcycle, Joseph and his team had added a lever on the side as a break if the PWD cannot use the foot pedals for breaking.
Accessibility for all
To further the completion of the PWD-friendly tricycle, Project SMILE (Simple but Meaningful Acts Intended to Leave a Lasting Effect), a non-profit initiative for neglected and underprivileged Filipinos, has partnered with ALKASAMOPI.
Last January, they had launched Join the Ride under their #PeopleWith campaign, which is primarily for the PWD community, to raise awareness and funds for the PWD-friendly tricycle.
“Given that the focus of the campaign is PWDs, we knew that we had to hear their perspectives straight from PWDs themselves,” founder Sam Tamayo explained. They had reached out to different members of the community as well as different advocates, including Joseph Delgado.
“Through his help, we conducted a focus group discussion that featured representatives of different PWDs such as the blind, amputee, and wheelchair users among others. We have gained a better understanding of their situation by listening to their personal stories and struggles as PWDs,” Sam continued.
With the information they had gathered, Project SMILE believes their first step for the Join the Ride campaign is raising awareness on the stigma against PWDs.
“I think a major hurdle is trying to make their struggles relatable,” Sam said. “This is why we try to portray PWDs as individuals who are just like us – that they are not limited by their conditions, therefore we need to recognize them beyond their disabilities.”
Ultimately, the goal for both ALKASAMOPI and Project SMILE is to have at least one PWD-friendly tricycle in each municipality.
“Ang hadlang po ay yung susuporta po sa aking budget para maipush ko ito at maiprovide [sa municipio]. Dahil wala po kami ang mga pyesa at mga mga gagamitin na mga machine (My budget is an obstacle in order to push for this and to provide [for other municipalities]. This is because we don’t have the necessary pieces and machines),” Joseph admitted.
In order to reach such a massive scale, Project SMILE has reached out to the public for a minimum donation of PHP100.
Click the logo below to sign up and donate, participate, and join the ride towards PWD inclusion.