When does a joke becomes a ridicule?
When does a deaf person perceive a given situation to be a joke? When does he think that he is already being discriminated or being mocked? How do they draw the line between someone throwing a harmless joke and one that is already harassing? Given the deaf’s inability to hear makes them vulnerable of being misunderstood.
One of the peculiarities in understanding the deaf is in terms of their perspective of their surroundings. Since most of the time nobody explains to them what is going on, they view situations based on what they see. This leads to misapprehensions and may even put them into humiliation. Now this is tragic.
Our small school for the deaf is currently renting the first two floors of a 4-story building in Cubao, Quezon City. We have employed a very faithful and trustworthy middle aged deaf utility named Eriberto. He is a Christian like most of our employees, conscientious in his work and has no vices. Although he appeared lean, he is strong and healthy.
When tenants from the ground floor complained that minute parts of their plastic rooftop were melting and gaping holes beginning to appear due to cigarette butts being thrown on it, they immediately called the attention of the building owner’s son. In order to protect his rights, I simply call him the “Harasser“. Probably due to his need to impress his father and his other tenants, he readily pointed a finger on our deaf Eriberto.
I don’t know why many people often accuse the deaf as one of their “usual suspects”. Is it because they are harmless and cannot readily defend themselves? This is sickening.
Even though Mr. Harasser made further investigations, he already had someone in mind to blame, our deaf. One evening, while I’m making some repairs on the computer lab, Mr. Harasser suddenly appeared and started asking questions to every deaf he met. Since they don’t understand his words, his facial fits made them feel that he’s angry. They immediately called me. So I talked to the him defending our staff. I emphasized that we have a school policy against smoking. We only have less than 100 students so we personally monitor their actions. I further clarified that we are not the only tenants in the building. There is another technical school, recruitment agency office and a call center training school for hearing at the second floor. They too have students/clients who smoke and stayed near the window above the contested rooftop. Still, my explanation meant nothing to him. During our conversation, he never left his eye off of our deaf. Mr. Harasser asked for his mobile phone number, verified if he uses a red cigarette and even took his photo from his cell phone. The situation is really getting off my nerves but I maintained calmness until he left.
A few days later, while our deaf was walking passed Mr. Harasser’s shop, he again called him. He gestured threatening him that he can be put to jail if he won’t stop throwing cigarette butts from the window. He motioned like a policeman putting handcuffs and slashing his finger off his neck saying “you’re dead”. All that time, he was laughing like a cursed devil to our deaf in front of his staff. Naturally, Eriberto got bloody scared. He can’t decipher if Mr. Harasser is just pulling his leg or already intimidating him. So he ran up and looked for me gasping while recounting his story.
Now, that really pissed me off. Together with my father, we went straight to Mr. Harasser. On top of my voice, I asked him, why does he keep on harassing and accusing our staff? Can’t he understand my explanation that he did not do it? It’s now my turn to threaten him. I said that if he’d do it again and our staff resigned, we will follow him and move the school to another location. I reminded him that we are their biggest tenant in terms of space area and rental fee. And if Mr. Harasser again bullied the deaf, we can file harassment case against him and slap disability laws (RA 9442) on his face. Mr. Harasser’s staff pacified the tense situation and apologized to me.
The next day, again, as Eriberto went passed his shop, he called him, texted words on his cell and showed it to him. He said he was just joking and doesn’t mean what he said the other day. Our deaf already developed phobia so he didn’t believe Mr. Harasser. Eriberto told me about the incident. I uttered, “What the..! That’s it? All the while, he was JUST JOKING?” I tell you, Mr. Harasser is definitely sick.
I appeased Eriberto and explained to him, the next time Mr. Harasser terrorized him again, we will report him directly to the barangay chairman for violating the Section 8, Chapter 2 of Amended Magna Carta for the Disabled Persons.
Republic Act 9442 has a special provision against verbal, non-verbal ridicule and vilification against persons with disability. Violators will be slapped with a fine of not less than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) but not exceeding One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) or imprisonment of not less than six months but not more than two years. For subsequent violation, a fine of not less than One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) but not exceeding Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00) or imprisonment for not less than two years but not more than six years will be thrown on him. This law was only enacted last 2006 and very few people still don’t know that it exists.
My advice to the deaf, the next time heartless people mock or ridicule you, tell him point blank that they can be put to jail. Also be more discerning. Try to analyze if other people are simply joking around or already stepping on your shoes.