The Land Transportation Office or LTO does give driver’s licenses to deaf drivers and to all other persons with disabilities who want and are able to drive motor vehicles. This was confirmed to us LTO licensing section’s Irene Mortel via a phone conversation at 3:30 PM, October 5, 2018.
However, Mortel also clarified that deaf drivers and other PWDs are only given Non-Professional Driver’s Licenses. She further said that this is done to ensure that PWDs who are able to drive are given the opportunity to exercise that right, but drivers who are deaf or are hard-of-hearing are not allowed to have Professional Driver’s Licenses.
Mortel further reiterated that while the government recognizes the right of the PWD to a driver’s license, provided certain conditions are met, the law does not allow the PWD to drive professionally. Many people see this as a form of discrimination. The PWD Drivers Association of the Philippines have furthered the right of persons with disabilities to own and drive a motor vehicle. Philippine laws have fully supported the granting of licenses to PWD drivers, in general, but with some conditions that will be communicated to the PWD upon granting of the license.Under Philippine law, it is illegal for a deaf driver or any PWD driver to drive a public utility vehicle. So technically, Uber Philippine’s Beethoven program was essentially illegal. It is illegal, because Philippine laws prohibit the issuance of a professional driver’s license to a PWD driver. Driving for a TNVS network, such as Uber at that time (Uber no longer operates in the Philippines), is a form of professional driving and such activity requires a professional driver’s license. Employment for PWDs including the deaf can be readily available and any barriers to employment, sans discrimination, is no more than that for the non-PWDs. People have different skills, work ethics, values and capabilities. For those who seek employment, they will usually find it in jobs that match their skills precisely. The dynamics are the same whether the job seeker has disabilities or without. Jobs are not discriminatory in the sense that job seekers are judged based on the prospective employer’s biases. Jobs discriminate in terms of skills sets, so regardless of the job seeker’s appearance or disabilities, if his/her skills sets match the job, then there should be no question.
Whether it is right to give deaf drivers the right to drive professionally, we leave that up to the law to decide. As of the moment, the law does not allow deaf drivers and other PWDs to own professional driver’s licenses. For the law to change, there needs to be the following:
- Relevant research – in other countries there are studies that can prove that there is deaf drivers are no more dangerous than hearing drivers. However, these studies are tailored for road conditions that do not exist in the Philippines. Thus the need for research to be conducted on our roads for relevant data.
- A champion – the PWD community has yet to find a senator and a congressman who will push for changes in legislation and with a heart for the plight of the PWDs.
- Constant monitoring from interest groups – there is need for the right legislation to be pushed by groups that will safeguard the public interest and for some of these laws not to be used as loopholes for corruption.
The safety of motorists and commuters are often reliant on luck as crashes are easy to happen in both urban and rural areas. The Filipinos are seldom defensive drivers and whether they private or utility drivers, the urge to speed, swerve and block other motorists are too strong to resist. It is probably rooted in our belief that driving fast is driving right. As many old-fashioned drivers teach their sons and daughters, they believe that having the ability to violate traffic rules and not get caught or figure in an accident is “cool”.
Those who have gone to a proper driving academy become more defensive drivers, but that is more the exception rather than the rule. Why? Because driver’s education is not mandatory, anyone who can pass the exam and the driving test is automatically given a license. However, driver’s education does not end with a working knowledge of how to drive a motor vehicle. Drivers must know how to react during emergency situations such as tire blowouts, engine trouble, or in other potentially dangerous situations such as potholes, zero visibility and how to manage road rage when interacting with errant motorists. These are skills that must be learned by every driver when driving in public roads. Driver’s education is crucial to a drivers’ own safety as well as the safety of their passengers that of the surrounding traffic and other motorists. As of the latest available Metro Manila Accidents Recording and Analysis System or MMRAS, since 2013 until 2016, the number one factor that cause road crashes is and will always be human error, a condition that can be changed with proper driver’s education.
In the 2019 elections, we in the PWD community hope and pray that we elect a champion of PWD rights. We are also hoping that someone in legislature will update laws allowing PWDs and deaf drivers to drive professionally so that more income-generating opportunities will be made available to our PWD community.
* This story was produced under the Bloomberg Initiative Global Road Safety Media Fellowship implemented by the World Health Organization, Department of Transportation and VERA Files.