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.

09 August 2014

Philippines ahead in giving PWAs voting rights

The Philippines held the National Day of PWD voter registration last 20 July 2014. While poor information dissemination, bad weather and inaccessibility plagued the initiative, resulting in low voter registration1, the Autism Society Philippines remains thankful for the efforts of the Commission of Elections and the National Commission on Disability Affairs to ensure that Filipinos with autism are given the opportunity to exercise their rights to vote.



A sad development. Halfway across the globe, a Voting Rights Act complaint2 was filed with the United States Department of Justice by the Disability and Abuse Project, seeking for the review of voting eligibility in Los Angeles county -- the country’s largest -- where advocates claim to that thousands of people with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy and other intellectual or developmental disabilities, over the last decade.
Fox News reported on 10 July 2014:  The complaint says judges in Los Angeles Superior Court use literacy tests to determine if adults in limited conservatorships should have voting rights, a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. It also says that judges and court-appointed attorneys violate federal laws that allow people with disabilities to have assistance to complete voter-registration forms and cast ballots.
"Autism is a broad spectrum, and there can be low skills and there can be high skills. But what I observed was that people tend to just dismiss it as though they have no skills," Teresa Thompson, whose son has autism and whose case helped prompt the complaint, said in a videotaped statement.
Back home. In the Philippines, every citizen above 18 years old may register to vote -- without any condition on abilities or education. The country has also done much to accommodate the voting population with various disabilities. One practice that has been recognized as best-in-class is the COMELEC’s partnership with SM Malls to utilize the spacious, accessible, and air conditioned malls as polling places for individuals with disabilities and the elderly.

One of the more common challenges observed in the last National Day of PWD voter registration, was the inability of adults with autism to complete the process. For the next round, the Autism Society Philippines hopes to welcome more voters to by helping COMELEC brief our community on what the PWAs can do at home to prepare for the experience of writing their details, having their biometrics taken, etcetera. Sharing the process with the parents ahead of time and with visual tools will go a long way in helping people with autism prepare for their experience at the registration or voting precincts.

Voices heard. Here are some thoughts by adults with autism on voting:

“The COMELEC staff are accommodating and kind. I am very excited because I will able to vote the deserving candidates come in election day.” --- Wilfredo M., 22
“I voted for the first time last 2013. I wish the senators who won would help make small businesses more successful and would stop being corrupt.” ---Carl V., 21
“I am glad that voted for the persons that I trust will protect my rights as an autistic person and bring discipline to the people.” -- JR T., 23

About the contributor. Mona Magno-Veluz is the National Secretary of the Autism Society Philippines. Aside from being a practising marketing communications professional in the IT industry, Mona is a wife and a mom to three kids. Her eldest, Carl, is an adult on the spectrum working with their family business.

References:
1 "Lack of Info, Bad Weather Blamed for Low Turnout in PWD Voter Registration." Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 21 July 2014. Web. 21 July 2014
2 "Complaint Claims Intellectual, Developmentally Disabled Prevented from Voting." Fox News. N.p., 10 July 2014. Web. 21 July 2014.

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