Small Steps, Big Leaps

7 Apr

I wanted to postpone putting up this post until I could get a decent shot of Alphonse applying for the benefits due to him courtesy of the amended Magna Carta for Disabled Persons (RA 9442 amending RA 7277). I’ve been thinking about it for forever, setting the shot in my head, but you all know the rest of the story.

It’s been more than year since Alphonse received his National Council on Disability Affairs- Quezon City ID (NCDA-QC) and the booklet that comes with it for purchases of basic goods and medicine.While we have been able to use it sometimes, more often than not, this card carried no real weight in many establishments for services he needed. For example, when Alphonse was confined at a private hospital in February of this year, we inquired on the application of the discounts and were told that the hospital did not honor disability benefits.

Still, I feel it would be a disservice to many if I put off the news any longer, considering how many people do not know that these things even exist for our children. As a country that prides itself in acceptance and compassion for the differently-abled, we are sorely lacking in services for these sectors of our society. Public schools that should, by law, cater to special needs children lack funding for appropriate classrooms, teachers, and materials for teaching. There is no nationally mandated early intervention program for children with special needs, and beyond the middle school years, we have little or no programs for adolescents and adults to transition them from school to workplace. I’ve said this over and over again and I am beginning to sound like a broken record: autism awareness is an important issue but the advocacy must be greater than this. We must work for real, tangible help that can be felt across the spectrum of our children’s disabilities rather than work solely on public relations and feel-good movements.

When we applied for the ID and the purchase booklet in our city government office last year on behalf of our son, we received them within the day. That was the good news. The bad news was the only places we could count on to honor them are the SM Malls’ supermarket chains and their mall-based drugstores, Watson’s. Thirty pesos saved here and there may be little to some, but to many parents who shoulder the entire expense of their children’s needs, it adds up in the long run. I only wish more companies would follow suit.

Then too, a few days ago, my friend M told me that McDonald’s honors her son’s ID and gives them a discount for his food. One of these days, when Alphonse is up to it, perhaps we might just give it a try and check it out for ourselves. Would Jollibee be as accommodating too?

Just recently, we got wind of more good news via Autism Society Philippines.

  1. The establishments of more chapter organizations of the ASP (50 at last count) herald an unprecedented rise in awareness and autism activism within the country.
  2. Learning software from Vizzle Technology has found its way to two public schools in Manila that offer special education to 400 high needs children; this is a praiseworthy initiative from Globe Communications, the Department of Education and ASP which would benefit the least economically able of our children.
  3. Perhaps most significant of all the news is that Mercury Drug Corporation, the largest drug store chain in the country, will finally honor disability discounts effective May 1 of this year. Our thanks to our advocates in government for this: Cong. Arturo Robles, the House of Representatives Commission on Social Services, and Cong. Walden Bello of AKBAYAN.Finally, we see our government working for us. Hats off to all the advocates of the disability sector- without your voices, our children would not be heard.

These are truly welcome developments for families with autism and other disabilities. The news about Mercury Drug pleased me most, of course. I even danced a small jig when I read about that one. Congratulations to ASP and to all of us!

Allow me to quibble, however, on something that bothered me as I read ASP’s post. I am not ungrateful but I do have to take exception with the way ASP says “Autism education issues are finally resolved” or “Autism health issues are finally realized,” for these imply a certain end and finality to all these specific disability issues. Perhaps a better way would be to say that autism issues are finally getting recognized, that we are finally getting heard.

The truth is we are nowhere near the finish line when it comes to disability issues. Even as we resolve old ones, new ones come along, brought about by our children’s growth, their different needs at different times in their lives, the different levels of functionality in the spectrum, and even changes in the state of the world. While I laud ASP for their victories and hard work, I must exhort them NOW to move with greater speed, with a stronger impetus, and with an even bigger vision for our children. Only if we seize the momentum today and take the little steps that make these big changes can there be a real future for all our children.


One Response to “Small Steps, Big Leaps”

  1. Anonymous April 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    100% like!

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