In a short visit to the Philippines this week, U.S. Special Advisor on Disability Rights Judith Heumann met with executives of SM Supermalls to discuss the company’s programs on the social inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (PWD). SM, through its corporate social responsibility arm SM Cares, has been strongly promoting a barrier-free and disability-inclusive environment for everybody for many years now.
Vice President for Operations and Program Director for SM Cares Committee on Disability Affairs Bien Mateo presented to Special Advisor Heumann some of SM Cares’ initiatives like the Angels Walk for Autism, the Happy Walk for Down Syndrome, the special screening of movies for the deaf and the blind, earthquake preparedness conference for PWDS, and the special voters’ registration for PWDs and senior citizens. He also showcased the PWD assistance training that they require to all of their front liners.
SA Heumann expressed appreciation for all the projects presented, most especially for the satellite voters’ registration being held at SM malls nationwide. According to her, making the registration more accessible to PWDs foster a more inclusive election process.
SA Heumann notes, “In many countries, I have noticed that while facilities are improving, inaccessibility is growing as well. I am very happy to learn about this unique model that SM is implementing where the principles of PWD inclusion are integrated with work. I really want to commend SM for the great job they are doing here and for being a leader in PWD advocacies.
During SA Heumann’s visit, SM Cares also arranged a roundtable discussion with the different PWD rights groups including former Isabela Governor Grace Padaca, Philippine Institute for the Deaf Principal Maricris Ibayan, UP SPED Area Cluster Coordinator Prof. Myra Trinidad-Tantengco, DLSU-CSB School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies Prof. Maria Veronica Templo-Perez, Autism Society of the Philippines President Mona Magno-Veluz, Philippine National School for the Blind Dr. Rosalie Condes, Metropolitan Museum of Manila representative Johan Araro, St. Joseph’s College SPED consultant Dr. Elvira Rocal, Philippine Foundation for the Rehabilitation of the Differently-abled President Noli Agcaoili, United Architects of the Philippines Ar. Jaime Silva, Tahanang Walang Hagdan Chief Operating Officer Joy Cevallos-Garcia, and Paralympian Weightlifter Adeline Dumapong. The roundtable session provided an avenue for the advocates to discuss their concerns and challenges with the Special Advisor.
SM Supermalls President Annie Garcia shares, “We are dedicated to helping people as much as they expect us and as much as how we think we can do. Our more than 10 years of partnership with these advocacy groups is a testament to that. From all fronts, you can trust that SM will continue to promote awareness, acceptance, and commitment to upholding PWD rights.”
For more than a decade now, SM has been living up to its commitment of being “a mall where no one gets left behind.” This recent engagement with the U.S. State Government’s Special Advisor on Disability Rights further affirms SM’s position as the most PWD-friendly mall in the country.