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‘Angels’ on parade press call for more autism-friendly society

/ 12:23 AM January 18, 2016
WALK THEIR WAY Sunday’s “Angels Walk” at SM Mall of Asia renews the campaign for commercial establishments, workplaces and laws that extend compassion and opportunities to persons with autism. photos by MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

WALK THEIR WAY Sunday’s “Angels Walk” at SM Mall of Asia renews the campaign for commercial establishments, workplaces and laws that extend compassion and opportunities to persons with autism. photos by MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

“GOOD morning, angels!”

These were the first words spoken by almost all speakers on Sunday’s “Walk with Angels” event at Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena.

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It’s like a line straight out of the movie “Charlie’s Angels,” delivered by a mysterious boss who gives orders to three women capable of fending and fighting for themselves and other people.

The angels in MOA Arena, however, were quite the opposite. They were persons with autism (PWAs) who could not necessarily fight for themselves, especially in a society that is not that open yet to people with such disabilities.

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Autism Society of the Philippines (ASP), composed of relatives of and advocate for PWAs, Sunday held another walk parade as part of their annual event dubbed “Angels Walk for Autism.”

The group, which has been around since 2010, has been calling the public and private sectors’ attention to the growing number of autism cases, and has been urging them to fight for the rights of the afflicted to equal living and opportunities.

Not only has ASP broken a record—as the largest group wearing wings in a single event—but it has also torn down international barriers through the culmination of Autism Asean Network.

ASP has succeeded in egging lawmakers to pass laws for the disabled and the PWAs, and the private sector to hire them.

This year, ASP president Mona Veluz issued a challenge closer to home: For parents or guardians to prepare the children for independence.

“The parents have to recognize that they (PWAs) are independent. They have to decide for themselves,” said Veluz. “Let us train our children to advocate themselves.”

18paradeVeluz was among the speakers who greeted the “angels” on Sunday morning. The others were engineer Bien Mateo (president of the host company SM Cares), Sen. Sonny Angara and Akiie Ninomiya, executive director of Asia Pacific Development Center on Disability.

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Ninomiya said history was made with the decision of autism networks in member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to join hands. He said this partnership was built at a time when some countries still refused to recognize autism.

Mateo and Angara heralded “good news” from the private and public sectors.

Veluz said SM, under the leadership of Hans Sy, would assign six stores as “pilot areas” for the PWAs.

In the Senate, lawmakers were pushing for laws that would give tax breaks to guardians and parents of PWAs and those with disabilities. They were also pushing for special education in all public and private elementary and secondary schools nationwide.

Veluz said she was grateful for these developments, adding that, hopefully, the country would be an “A-OK” society.

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