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Sir Leo's Inspiring Message to PWAG

Accessibility Group as Servants of the Community

Fellow web designers and advocates:

I’ve been asked to deliver some kind of inspirational message to help launch the core group meeting. What I would like to tell you in the next seven minutes is a leadership philosophy, a sad reality, and the roles and significance of the core group.

First, let me tell you about being in service. One of the least of our jobs in the Philippines is that of being a maid. It does not pay well and it can be hard work. When I raised my family outside of the Philippines, we hired baby sitters: once when we were in Austria and another when we went to Canada. In distant lands, there is nothing to be gained by acting like an “Amo”. My family and I are away from the land we grew up in, and so is our baby-sitter. So, she is part of our family. She sits at the dinner table with us, and we include her in our conversation as if she were our daughter. It is the least we can do for her service. She takes care of our children and keeps our home clean. We reward her by giving her the dignity that she deserves. And when it came time for them to leave, it was as if we were watching our child go away to college. We keep in touch with them, and they tell us of their milestones in life, such as when they both got married.

So, if the least of our jobs in the Philippines is that of being a maid, then why do we rely on them to keep our economy alive. When they serve people in foreign lands, they bring home foreign currency. They save our country from bankruptcy. Overseas foreign workers are known as the “bagong bayani”. Being a servant is part of our country’s survival.

Thus, there is no loss of status in servitude. In the past two years, I became a servant to you, to improve your awareness of accessibility. Now, I am going to ask you to be servants of your community. I have asked you already to change you mindset about persons with disabilities. Now, I am asking you to change your mindset about servitude.

I have seen many Filipinos in many foreign lands. Filipinos are so diverse. They form groups, clubs and associations. There are professional associations, alumni associations, regional or province associations, religions associations, etc. You name it, Filipinos will have it. But let’s face it, these associations are mostly political in nature. Many are formed not to foster a common goal, but to create a clique and build personal status. When leaders within an association have differences, they break off and become new associations. These are borne from our constant need for status, which was put into us by status- and power-seeking tyrants in our history. There is inisan and inggitan. This power-seeking is what you see in national politics today. You see, all the players want to be bosses, not servants. And that is why they cannot achieve the goals they set out to achieve.

So, I am asking two things. First, do not become an association. I have always called you a community, because communities are built and sustained by people with a common purpose. Be a community. Be a national community, not just a Luzon community by virtue of your being in the same place.

Your differences are petty in the shadow of your commonality. You may disagree, but you will not abandon. You will find solutions that benefit everybody. You will work together because the beneficiary is not yourself, but persons with disabilities. You will abandon selfishness in a community. You will embrace team spirit in a community.

I am also asking you to be servants. Servants to your fellow web designers around the Philippines. You serve them by helping them to help persons with disabilities. You will give importance to everybody, including the most distant web designer in rural Mindanao. That distant web designer is your “amo”. And his or her “amo” is a PwD who needs vital information.

You also serve each other by supporting each other in the pursuit of your community and its goals. You will encourage each other, motivate each other, and make each other accountable – just as you make yourself even more accountable. You will trust each other, and work things out if there are differences.

Your reward for your work and sacrifice is recognition from your peers. If you do something great, and it gains publicity, you must expect that the recognition will not go to any individual. In fact, recognition may go to the politician who, in ten minutes, finds out what you do, and announces it to the press as if he had supported you for years. Yes, someone will steal your recognition. But you should know that your reward is inside you. I know for a fact that you are doing what needs to be done. If my humble recognition of your effort means anything to you, then I am rewarded by your success and feeling of accomplishment.

I have asked a lot from you because of the significance of your task. You are doing something historic. Nowhere in the world is there an initiative for technical accessibility from the grassroots. Nowhere in the world has national policy and technical standards been built for, and with, persons with disabilities. Finally, nowhere in the world have web designers banded together as a community towards a social benefit. You are the first in the world.

So, I pray for your solidarity and your success. I wish you and all our advocates the will and the resolve to find ways to equalize opportunities for persons with disabilities. And I thank you profusely for your willingness and sacrifice towards that endeavor.

Your servant,

Leo Valdes

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