The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

04 June 2010

My UNCRPD Conference Experience

By: JR Tan, Person with Autism

Last May 31, I had a chance to attend the KAMPI National Conference in the light of UN Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) at Great Eastern Hotel in Quezon City.


The good news is, the conference was funded by World Bank, which is committed to help the marginalized sector of the country. The UNCRPD mandates every member-state to give equal protection and rights, regardless of disabilities.


Before I attended this conference, I asked myself this question: "Why should I attend the conference?" Of course, this is my chance to explore my rights that I haven't previously known, as well as the amendments to the laws previously established. I was also there to fight for a barrier-free environment for people with autism. For me, it's a blessing to be there, because I get to learn more, beyond the confines of my college's classrooms.


Upon arrival in the venue, I encountered people who are “physically-challenged” like the wheelchair-bound, deaf and blind. I am the only person with autism who was present. I had the chance to speak to other people and get to know them better.


Access for PWDs

During the conference, I met Ms. Venus Ilagan, Secretary General of the Rehab International, with headquarters in Manhattan, New York. Rehab International is responsible for establishing the Universal Symbol of Access (USA), during the mid-1970s; and is now used over 100 nations, worldwide.


She shared her experiences on public transport accessibility, in which PWDs are given priority. From home to work, she takes the bus at a discounted fare of $1.10 (from the regular $2.50); and New Yorkers give priority to PWDs to ride and alight from the buses.

In our county, although it is encouraged that PWDs should be given priority, I don’t know if there are laws that require this. Regarding discounts on transportation, PWDs are given 20% discount on fare for domestic air and sea travel, public railways, skyways and bus fares.


Also I realized that here in our country, some buildings do not have access to wheelchair users and other physically-challenged people. For instance, some toilets marked with the Universal Symbol of Access do not meet the prescribed standard. (If the toilet doesn't have enough grab bars, those who use them may have a hard time moving around.)


An Otistik’s concern

During that afternoon, Dr. Renante Basas, Director from the Commission on Human Rights) CHR, talked on the responsibilities and its role. Among the roles of CHR is investigative monitoring (according to Article 30) and provide legal assistance to PWDs.


I was concerned about uploaded YouTube Videos mocking people with autism (e.g. "OTISTIK", it is about a person who hand flaps with people laughing in background) will be subject to imprisonment and hefty fines.


During the open forum, I asked him what CHR should do about this. He said that there's no follow-up to these videos yet; they will find a way to prevent these from recurring.


I wanted to suggest that CHR and NCDA (National Council for Disability Affairs) in cooperation with local media, to create educational videos that prohibit the public ridicule of PWDs, plus emphasizing the existing laws on prosecution for violators. But unfortunately, due to the limited time, I was not able to tell him. Other PWDs have also told him their own concerns.


SM - Caring for PWDs

Mr. Rheybie Nipas, Deputy Program Director of SM’s Committee on Disability Affairs, came to speak in the conference. He presented “SM Cares,” a video clip on how SM became more PWD-friendly when an unfortunate incident took place in Megamall last 2004.


JR with Mr Rheybie Nipas (2nd from right) with our other friends in SMCDA


In response to this, they asked ASP to offer seminars to all personnel in every SM establishment. As a result, they always try to show they care, for people with disabilities. Also, Mr. Nipas said SM includes in their yearly calendar, Angels Walk for Autism in January, World Autism Awareness Day in April and NDPR Week on July.


After viewing the clip and listening to his speech, I stood up to thank Mr. Nipas on behalf of ASP and all people with autism, for SM’s great help to us.


I also asked him how SM accommodates PWDs in sports facilities, like bowling alleys and ice skating rinks. He said that this coming NDPR Week, there will hold a tournament for PWDs in bowling and skating. I was glad to hear this good news!


Workshop Day

The following day, at 9:00, I was assigned to document ASP’s Strategies for the implementation of RA 10070 or the PDAO (People with Disability Affairs Office) Law. Click here to know more. While typing, I checked every word I wrote in preparation for the 11:00 presentation.


(L-R) Jean Gonzalez-ASP Mandaluyong Chapter Officer, Tiffany Tan-ASP National Secretary,

JR Tan-PWA and Ranil Sorongon- ASP Executive Director


According to ASP Manduyong Chapter officer, Jean Gonzalez, their city has an existing ordinance mandating the PDAO Law. In my city, Quezon City, they are working towards this goal. The SSDD (Social Service Development Department) office will soon merge with the PDAO.


I was curious that ASP is setting time frames to achieve certain goals. One of the goals is to spread the message though e-mail, and PDF files. (In case you are reading, please tell others of the PDAO law.)


When I spoke in front, I smiled and became confident in my words. I listened to other group's reports on their plans to implement the ordinance in their local areas.


JR Tan during his presentation


After the workshop, a pastor working with the deaf organization was promoting a sign language book. I borrowed the book and took a peek on it and followed the signs. When I tried to sign the National Anthem, I appreciated the person who translated them because it is so meaningful and creative.


Continue Advocating

After the conference, I asked to have a photograph with Ms. Venus Ilagan. Although she was busy with her meeting with the KAMPI board of governors, she was friendly to take time to have a picture with me. I also asked for her autograph the other day and she signed it in my UNCRPD booklet copy.


JR Tan with Ms. Venus Ilagan


Ms. Ilagan said that “Disability should not be liability, but a PASSPORT to the world.” She repeated this many times during the conference, to remind us that we should believe in ourselves, strive hard when the right opportunity comes and have the capacity to perform and deliver.


I was happy that I learned a lot during the two-day conference. And at the same time, confident that KAMPI would continue to fight for disability rights.


On a personal note, I wish that other people with autism will also be given this chance to participate in this kind of conference/workshop. Since there are many other autistic people in the country, they should also learn how to advocate for themselves, to reach their desired goals.


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JR Tan is 19 years old and an incoming third year college student. He is passionate about PWD rights and dreams of becoming a CPA in the future.

2 comments:

hopewell integrated school said...

Great job JR! Your friends at hopewell Integrated School are proud of you.hope we could invite you here to talk to our students and parents.Best regards.
More power to mam Stephanie,sir Ranil and the rest of the hardworking staff of ASP National.

Autism Society Philippines said...

Dear Hopewell Integrated School,

Thank you for posting your comments, wishes and compliments for ASP and the hard working staff.

Regarding your invitation to visit your students and parents at the center, kindly course your letter to ASP’s email address at autismphil@pldtdsl.net.

Currently JR is attending classes from Monday to Saturday. We will try to work out our schedule.

Best regards to Teacher Arnold, parents and kids of Hopewell.


Sincerely,

Tiffany Tan

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