Raising hope for persons with autism

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AS the United Nations (UN) called on societies to include persons with autism in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Department of Labor said the government has embraced a national strategy that allows the participation and welcomes the contribution of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the national development effort.

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“This is a violation of human rights and a waste of human potential. I have seen the dynamism and commitment of persons with autism,” he said as the UN led the observance of World Autism Awareness Day 2016 with the theme “Autism and the 2030 Agenda: Inclusion and Neurodiversity.”

“While persons with autism naturally have a wide range of abilities and different areas of interest, they all share the capacity for making our world a better place. The rights, perspectives and well-being of people with autism, and all persons with disabilities, are integral to the 2030 Agenda and its commitment to leave no one behind,” Ban said.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said there is a great challenge to ensure that PWDs feel that the government is guaranteeing their fundamental freedoms, social protection and employment.

She said that as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the government is bound to abide with the treaty.

She noted that since RA 7277, known as the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, was amended in 2006, there has been greater urgency to guarantee the basic rights, freedoms, and privileges of PWDs persons with disability to improve and enhance their social standing and dignity.

“Every individual person, with or without disability, is unique. In such uniqueness, there is a potential. And that potential should be fully or optimally developed,” Baldoz said.

“Thus, one of our goals is to raise the people’s awareness on issues and problems faced by PWDs and to enlist public support for concrete efforts to better PWDs’ economic and social conditions,” she explained.

She said that her department launched Tulong-Alalay Para sa Taong may Kapansanan or TULAY. Under the program, over 5,000 PWDs have benefited from the skills and entrepreneurship training, common facilities, tools, and raw materials for livelihood projects.

The Labor department also encourages employers to hire more PWDs in return for tax privileges and other incentives.

Baldoz urged government agencies to monitor and report the number of PWDs in their employ in the interest of transparency, saying that the DOLE itself has over 30 disabled employees.

Through the Social Insurance Fund contributed by employers and administered by the Government Service Insurance Service (GSIS) and Social Security System (SSS), the DOLE’s Employee Compensation Commission implements a social insurance program for occupationally-disabled workers. The SIF answers for claims of workers on work-related accidents and disabilities.

“To assist PWDs in their search for jobs, I have instructed the Bureau of Local Employment to make the PhilJobnet facility easily accessible to PWDs by lodging their skills and qualification profiles in the “skills for hire” category. The same should be true with the skills training of the TESDA,” Baldoz said.

She said PWDs, as members of the labor force, have the capacity to contribute to national development efforts provided they are given the opportunity to cultivate their immense potential.

Hope
Ton Reyes, Senior Communications Officer, Department of External Affairs, Asian Development Bank (ADB), said that as a mother of two children with autism, she felt a sense of hope when the UN issued an appeal for employers to commit to offering jobs for individuals with autism.

“Having worked and lived with them for the past 20 years, I know in my mind and heart that they are capable of holding jobs and contributing to the workplace, if only they are given the opportunity and the right skills,” said Reyes in her ADB blog.

“Around the world, highly successful companies such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft are embracing diversity in the workplace for the many benefits it brings. With their unique skills and perspectives, persons with autism can enrich the workplace in many ways,” she added.

Reyes said that with appropriate training and supervision, persons with autism can become productive members of the workforce, whether in offices, animation studios, factories, small industries, or farms.

“It’s crucial to raise awareness. Autism continues to be widely misunderstood, creating a stigma that could deter employers from taking in persons with autism. The stigma and discrimination is very real and in your face – I know, I experience it almost everyday,” she said.

She proposed to the government to give incentives to organizations that hire persons with autism, as well as entrepreneurial ventures formed by persons with autism and their families.

Governments, Reyes further said must also support developing technical and vocational programs for persons with autism, citing as an example the baking and cooking classes offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in the Philippines.

Likewise, she said, development agencies could extend their assistance in helping governments find an integrated approach to designing and implementing mainstreaming policies and programs.

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