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Jan 7, 2010

Posted by in Advocacies, Autism, Featured | 10 Comments

Apparently, not every Juan can fly with Cebu Pacific after all

Apparently, not every Juan can fly after all.

Contrary to Cebu Pacific‘s tag line that it’s time everyone flies (or every Juan as they so creatively coined), there are exemptions to who they are willing to fly. This is the message they gave to the public when they so insensitively tried to coerce a mother and her son to disembark from the plane they were taking because the son had special needs. The incident took place last December 23, 2009. According to news reports, Mrs. Mylene Alcantara was told by the flight crew that they cannot go on with their flight after finding out that her son was a special child. More specifically, she was informed that the company policy was that no two special needs passengers can be on the same flight. Apparently, there was another child with Down’s Syndrome already aboard the aircraft. They reportedly were insisting that her son was mentally ill, thus they could not travel. I applaud this mother’s strength and courage as she not only refused to be coerced and intimidated by these crew members but also for continuing the fight against the airline. Mrs. Alcantara is now filing a multi-million lawsuit against the carrier.

This is not the first time Cebu Pacific has displayed obvious descirmination towards PWD’s or Persons with Disabilities. In a previous incident (which if not for a blogger’s Plurk I would not have known about), Cebu Pacific refused to board a group of  deaf passengers because of a policy against having two unescorted passengers that require special handling. They explained further that “special handling” pertained to passengers who were pregnant, had disabilities,  medical cases, minors travelling alone and individuals whose physical, medical or mental conditions need special or individual attention (read the entire response via Filipino Deaf from the Eyes of a Hearing Person here and here).

Granted that having unassisted and unaccompanied individuals who need special attention may tax the resources of the cabin crew in case of emergency and increase the carrier’s liability, this seems to not be the case in the situations of both the group of hearing impaired tourists and Mrs. Alcantara’s son. For one, the child was accompanied by his mother who clearly is able to care for her son and attend to his needs. Secondly, as heard over the radio this morning, the lawyer of the family pointed out that special children are not considered mentally ill.

What ignorance on the part of a company! Just because someone has special needs does not make them less of an individual nor does it mean they do not deserve opportunities granted to everyone else. So long as they have their support system on hand, there should be no problems or issues at all. Conrtary to the belief that children with autism or mental retardation cannot behave and act inappropriately, they can be just like other kids in many, many ways. In fact, a lot of times it is the so-called “normal” population that acts inappropriately in-flight. The Cebu Pacific crew‘s behavior takes us back to a time when children with autism, Down’s Syndrome and other physical, mental or other handicaps were institutionalized and hidden from the rest of the world. I, for one, am not willing to go back to that kind of a mind-set. I enjoin a fellow autism advocate and another brave mom of a child with autism as she calls for the airline industry to accommodate individuals with special needs. If I may add, this accommodations should be done with no questions asked!

In the last year alone, I have read so many gripes and rants about the airline, from faulty online bookings to poor customer service, and now this. It is time that the airline started making changes about their policies and procedures. Further, their training of their staff should be revamped. I remember on my Davao trip last year, I had taken another carrier but my friends had taken Cebu Pacific and they had a major rant about one of the crew. I don’t remember what it was exactly anymore, but the point is Cebu Pacific should work on better customer service. While the airline has made apologies to the family, it is not enough. The damage is done.

Cebu Pacific does offer low fares. But their claim on great value? This is something we now have to think about.

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Jun 5, 2009

Posted by in Autism | 3 Comments

Assistance for Persons with Disabilities.

Living with a disability, be it physical, cognitive, psychosocial or language disabilities, can be trying, not just emotionally but also financially. Doctors visits, tests, therapies and medication definitely place a strain on the family’s budget.  It is nice to hear that as of March 2009, the Persons With Disability ID is available in many local municipalities, as reported by the Autism Society Philippines. These ID’s entitle PWD’s to avail of health and medically related discounts in all drugstores and medical facilities.

On May 20, 2009, the Department of Health issued Administrative Order 2009-0011 which outlines implementing guidelines to RA 9442 (otherwise known as “An Act Amending Republic Act No. 7277, otherwise known as the “Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, and for Other Purposes,” for the provision of medical and related discounts and special priviliges). This ordinance will surely make the lives of Persons With Disabilities (PWD) somewhat more manageable. This will also allow them to avail of services, amongst others, that they surely need. It’s kinda sad that this was not publicized or given as much attention as it should have been given. As with the ConAss issue, this seems to have been overshadowed by the controversial Hayden Kho-Katrina Halili sex scandal. I’m glad I am on the mailing list of the Autism Society Philippines, thus I was able to be informed about this.

With this order, persons with disabilities shall be entiled to at least 20% discounts on medicines in all drugstores, 20% discount on medical/dental services and laboratory fees in all government facilities (subject to guidelines by DOH and PhilHealth),  and 20% discount on the same services plus professional fees of attending physicians in private hospitals, again, based on guidelines set by DOH in coordination with PhilHealth. The rules further provide that express lanes for PWD’s shall be provided in all private, commercial and government establishments. The directive provides services not only for the physically impaired, but also includes psychosocial disabilities.

As I read through the guidelines, it seemed to me that the process of availing of the Senior Citizens discount (including getting an ID and purchase booklet from the local municipality) is the same as how the PWD discounts will work.  In the latest e-newsletter of the ASP, they pointed out PWD’s residing in Quezon City can now avail of their PWD ID card and medicine purchase booklet.

Click here for more information about REPUBLIC ACT 9442

Click here to check if your municipality is issuing PWD ID’s and purchase booklets.

UPDATE:

Thank you to Earth for clarifying that this law has been in exsistence for some time now. Read more about it here.

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