“Well, I’m not! As long as I’m not riding on the vehicle that he is driving.”
That was the response of a participant in one of the Deaf Sensitivity Training which I conducted many times. I asked the trainees that question before showing them a couple of images that I boast as “success stories of deaf drivers” who made ingenious innovations in order to communicate with their passengers, as shown below.
Deaf drivers are one of the most careful and law-abiding drivers. Also, “The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) stresses that deafness does not in any way limit a person’s ability to drive a car or other vehicles.” I have experienced riding on deaf drivers many times. They are very cautious and too focused on their surroundings that they navigate the road very smoothly.
Still, the participant’s reaction is not uncommon. In fact, according to Axleaddict.com, around 30 countries worldwide don’t allow deaf people to acquire a driver’s license. Although the Philippines was listed among those who permit deaf drivers, that is not the case among most of them who applies for a license. I have assisted a handful of deaf people in applying for a license either as their sign language interpreter or accompanying them when I applied for mine. Most of the time, they are turned down. The main reason? They cannot hear. This is a huge hurdle for them.
One of the five conditions that must be met is that a person who has a hearing problem must be “WITH HEARING AID”. Since the majority of deaf people I know are either not comfortable wearing hearing aids or using them is useless because they are already severe or profoundly deaf (people who can only understand sounds through vibrations), they won’t qualify for this. One of the procedures that they must undergo first is a medical examination which just basically checks their eyesight and hearing capabilities. They would automatically fail on this.
Still, quite a few deaf I know, especially in the provinces, were able to overcome this hurdle by applying “under the table” so to speak. But this path is costly, illegal and often dangerous to the license holders because they are always extremely cautious about not getting caught. Otherwise, their license could either be revoked and not be returned or the police officers would give them a very hard time by giving them numerous violations. This has been a huge issue among the deaf community which they have been addressing for many years yet remained unresolved. Until now…
Introducing, ALYANSA NG MAY KAPANSANAN NA NAGMAMANEHO NG SASAKYAN AT MOTOR SA PILIPINAS or ALKASAMOPI for short! Let me translate their Filipino name into English, hopefully, I am right. It’s ALLIANCE OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES WHO DRIVE MOTOR VEHICLES IN THE PHILIPPINES. According to their Facebook Page, ALKASAMOPI
… is a Non Government Organization whose MISSION and VISION is to promote the camaraderie, brotherhood and equal rights & opportunities among individual Person With Disabilities (PWDs) especially PWD Driver & Riders ( commuters)
One of our objective is to integrate the Persons with Disability (PWD) to the mainstream of society by promoting safety driving and riding to assist them to exercise their rights and privileges and most of all to promote the equal rights and opportunities for the service of transportation.
Its founding president is Joseph Delgado. As per their SEC Registration, its principles are
We are encouraged, empowered and have the full participation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) Riders and Drivers to have a Non Professional Driver’s License and have a knowledge of Road Safety as a road users.
*We are passionate, innovative and fearless in the promotion and defense of the right and interest of Persons with Disability.
*We are accessible and responsive to our community needs in terms of accessible transportation and accessible facilities.
*We are collaborative and supportive in our relationship with the disability rights movement as a whole.
They accept all sectors with a disability who are either current holders of driver’s licenses or driving a motorized vehicle. But since many of their members are deaf, they formed a separate group for the deaf community riders with which our blog will focus. Its deaf group has its own set of Officers and the Board of Directors. Their president is Christopher Frando.
I have met most of them. But I have personal acquaintances with Michael Boholst (PRO), Daryl Desamparado, Daryl Pineda and Bryann Gregorio (Board of Directors). All of them are alumni of MCCID College and my former students. Most of them also attend the Deaf Ministry of Capitol City Baptist Church where I do sign language interpreting.
As enumerated in their brochure, ALKASAMOPI provides
- PWD Awareness Sensitivity Seminar “How to Properly Approach and Handle a PWD”
- Bloodletting project
- Brigada Eskwela (assisting in the opening of school classrooms)
- Giving free assessment for mobility devices
- Giving free assessment for LTO concerns
- Giving road safety seminar for PWD and Non-PWDs
- Giving free safety driving and riding seminar
- Fighting and defending PWD rights
I own a Suzuki Sky Drive 175 since 2014. I don’t often use it because my work is inside the school campus. So I let our deaf school utility Owen Domagtoy use the motorcycle to run some errands. However, he does not have a license. After helping him acquire his “student permit”, the next hurdle is for him to get his driver’s license. It would be very difficult for him to acquire it because he will need to go to a series of tests. Fortunately, ALKASAMOPI assisted him by giving him pointers and assigned a sign language interpreter during the test. Now, he is not worried about driving around because he already has a license.
Aside from helping other PWDs, the group participated in assisting commuters during this COVID-19 Pandemic lockdown. Below is the YouTube video they uploaded last April which ends with a prayer signed by their Deaf President Christopher Frando.
We understand that acquiring a license to drive is a privilege and not a right. But we also support equal opportunity for everyone, including those with disabilities. If a hearing person can avail of a privilege to use the road, with the latest technologies and an open mind from everyone, a deaf and hard-of-hearing person can also avail of that.
Mabuhay po ang ALKASAMOPI sa pagtulong sa mga Pilipinong Bingi na matupad ang kanilang pangarap na malayang makapag-byahe gamit ang kanilang mga sasakyang de-motor!
- – PWD means Persons With Disabilities