Autism and Elections

Manila Bulletin, May 6, 2013 | Go to article overview
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Autism and Elections


As the nation prepares for the upcoming midterm elections, the autism community is reminded that our priceless votes determine the future society our children with autism will grow old in. The individuals with autism who suffer most from the lack of basic services or opportunities to be contributing members of society are very likely the ones who will not be participating in the political discourse. They are counting on the rest of us to select leaders who are cognizant of the national crisis that is autism.

This week's Angel Talker Mona Magno-Veluz, Autism Society Philippines' national secretary tackles election-related concerns of our community. Find her on Twitter: @mightymagulang.

***

Autism advocates at last year's US national elections, boldly recognized that autism is a far-reaching crisis that needs federal attention. The organization Autism Speaks (http://www.autismspeaks.org) called for the "Autism Vote," which urged candidates running for seats in the White House and the Senate to commit to three principles which can be the germ of a national autism policy:

* "The autism crisis demands a focused, coordinated and accountable response from public health agencies."

* Federal research funding should cover "a broader initiative to unlock the secrets of the human brain that would produce dramatic results."

* Health care and insurance reform should include affordable access to effective, "evidence-based autism treatments and applied behavior analysis" to benefit families with autism.

While we have not yet managed to gather families living with autism as a unified voting block in this country, our community has participated in many initiatives that leveraged the power of legislation to make positive change. Philippine Republic Act No. 7277 or the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons is an example of how a law can open doors for the executive branch to make benefits and services available to families and individuals living with disabilities. This piece of legislation paved the way for many new programs like the creation of Persons with Disability Affairs Office in every local government unit, and the provision of discounts on basic commodities, among other PWD benefits.

This development, strangely, runs inverse to the decrease in number of PWDs who vote in national elections. According to a 2012 Social Weather Station survey, the figure had gone down from 60 percent in 2007 to 54 percent in 2010. The Commission on Elections had to launch an aggressive drive for PWD registration and empowerment over the last year. Private non-profits like the Fully Abled Nation campaigned for PWD education and enablement, which included an assessment of the situation of PWDs, focus group discussions and dedicated surveys nationwide.

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