Cristeta Estrada, a 53-year-old high school teacher with psoriatic arthritis, cannot help but get frustrated every time she lines up in grocery stores or fast food chains for hours, and notice people ahead of her looking pretty healthy, normal and “stronger than Hercules.”
“I can no longer stand for an hour since my leg disability. I just wish the store manager would religiously follow what the lane is for — senior citizens and persons with disability (PWD). Do not wait for something to happen to us. Our lane should serve only people like us,” she lamented in one of her Facebook posts.
In the Philippines, disability is one of the social issues affecting a portion of the Philippines’ situation. The Philippine Statistics Authority recorded a total of 1.443 million (1.57 percent of the total population) PWDs as of 2010.
Apparently, only 60 percent (or 6 out of 10) of local government units (LGUs) have a Persons with Disability Office (PDAO) according to a study by the University of the Philippines-Center for Local and Regional Governance (UP CLRG) on PWD inclusion in the Philippines.
The presence of PDAOs in LGUs lowers the chance of PWDs having limited access to various services such as health, employment, rehabilitation, assistive devices, social welfare, disaster management, and education. But the low compliance with this requirement has severely impaired the implementation of the law assuring the delivery of services to PWDs.
Who qualifies for PWD
According to the PWD Philippines website, there are seven categories that qualify an applicant for a PWD ID: visual impairment, hearing loss, orthopedic disability, learning disability, psychosocial disability, chronic illness and mental disability.
In the case of Estrada, she is suffering from psoriatic arthritis, a type arthritis that started with psoriasis, which eventually led to her leg disability.
“My psoriasis condition started in my mid-40s. This is hereditary because my father and brothers had this. At the beginning, I had an itchy scalp and reddish spots that leave my skin dry once I pop them. It gets worse and the spots multiply and the dandruff keeps coming back, which often times makes me so embarrassed,” said Estrada.
In the Philippines, an estimated 2 million Filipinos suffer from this disease. Psoriasis is a common skin condition that speeds up the life of cycle of skin cells. The extra skin cells form scales and red patches that are itchy and sometimes painful.
In 2014, psoriasis was recognized for the first time as a serious non-communicable disease at the World Health Assembly. All member-states recognized that incorrect or delayed diagnosis and inadequate treatment options, among others, cause needless suffering for millions of people worldwide.
If one has psoriasis, the patient is at greater risk of developing certain diseases such as psoriatic arthritis, eye condition, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease and other autoimmune diseases.
Psoriatic arthritis is a long-term condition that can get progressively worse and occurs when body’s immune system begins to attach healthy cells and tissue. Estrada’s doctor said her condition was degenerative, or had the tendency to decline and deteriorate.
Hope for psoriasis
A former energetic athlete in high school and a writer, Estrada admitted that she feels depressed looking for cures to her skin irregularities.
“I met a dermatologist who advised me to get sun treatment. Sun light can be a cure,” said Estrada.
Sun treatment is not only known to reduce inflammation and scaling, it also helps clear psoriasis symptoms and makes the body produce more Vitamin D, which can help reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for psoriasis, but there are several effective treatments available apart from medicines, which is exposure to the sun or sun treatment.
Despite her condition, Estrada tries to be positive, be grateful in life, and serve God by being active in parish organizations as a member of the Mother Butler Guild. Her husband is also active in the parish as member of the Lay Ministers. The couple is blessed with an 18-year-old child.
“The Lord gave me this condition but He helped me realize to be grateful despite the pain. The mere fact that I can still climb the stairs in our school to attend classes is enough to be thankful for, that I have a husband who supports me emotional and financially, and an 18-year-old child. I do not know before how to thank him before but He really works in my life,” said Estrada, who is set to retire next year.
Under the Labor Code of the Philippines, all employees with disability are entitled to all rights and benefits. Workers with disability must also be mandatorily covered under the Social Security System, Philippine Health Insurance Corp., and the Home Guarantee Development Fund (Pag-IBIG), whenever applicable.
The Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, or Republic Act 7277, prescribes that “no disabled persons shall be denied access to opportunities for suitable employment, and that a qualified disabled employee shall be subject to the same terms and conditions of employment.”