Deaf VS Hearing, anyone?

Although some hearing people have occasionally bully deaf people because they feel that they are more superior than them. Deaf people on the other hand tend to exhibit their “pity-me” effect to the hearing people in order to get concessions. But pitting them against each other is counter-productive and does not promote rights-based approach.

I got hold of this image from a Facebook page of my friend who got it from another friend. I felt amazed at how the image-maker compared the Deaf from the Hearing. Here it is:

Image

I don’t know where he got this view. Probably he is deaf.  But I believe most of the statements of comparison are true. Based on this I can summarize that deaf people are more open, blunt and straight-to-the-point while hearing people are more subdued, respecting and mind-your-own-business type.

Dear readers, what do you think?

Filipino Sign Language Bill’s struggle for acceptance continues

Yesterday, I posted a Facebook status which says, “…. Filipino Sign Language struggle for acceptance continues… on November 27 at the House of Representatives…. ” This after the very heated argument which happened last November 19 during the Technical Working Group Sub-committee hearing on the discussion about the modification of the proposed Filipino Sign Language Bill. The “final” hearing will be held on the 27th.

Sub-committee Hearing

I was invited in the past two hearings representing our school, MCCID College. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend. But it is imperative for me to participate on this one because I have already exhausted two excuses for not attending. 🙂

I won’t mention most of what transpired, especially the debates which took nearly four hours. Cong. Antonio Tinio, principal author of the bill was very cordial and accommodating with all sides.

I was the first one who made an introduction as one of the resource persons. But I remained silent all throughout the proceedings. I won’t post any prominent names here except for congressmen, in order to respect their personal preferences. These are what I observed:

  • I’m sure some participants already noticed this. Every time a resource person comes in, he/she knows where he/she would sit in preference of his/her stand on the bill. I being an FSL advocate sat on the right side of the conference room near the front since I’m one of the early birds. So do most of the pro-FSL supporters! The “anti” FSL people were all conspicuously seated on the left! Was there a seat plan made or are we just all natural born psychics? 🙂
  • A significant number of attendees, from the congressmen (paging, Cong. Rufus Rodriguez!) down to the deaf observers, still cannot distinguish the FILIPINO (language) from FILIPINO (group of people). Some of them are at a loss when they ignorantly pronounced that Filipino Sign Language means Tagalog language translated into sign language. One high-esteemed corporate head even mentioned about globalization. It is as if we dream of the Filipino Deaf becoming future Call Center Agents!
  • Two sign language interpreters were present. On the left, FSL interpreter while on the right, SEE with which some SEE advocates corrected the term as SIGNED ENGLISH Interpreters. But after careful observation, there were many instances when both of them were nearly signing identically! Is the SEE interpreter slowly switching to a much comfortable FSL or is the FSL interpreter making things easier by following English sentences in exact order? hmmm…
  • Some perceived that FSL is an anti-English language. That’s way too unfounded. All, and I mean ALL, Special Education Centers in the Philippines use English as a medium of instruction especially in the written form. Tagalog or Filipino language is taught sparsely. Some, including oral schools, scrapped Filipino subject altogether.
  • Quite a number of participants brag about their so and so decades of teaching the deaf or being deeply involved with the deaf community. Well, I guess the number of years of service won’t always make you a better servant.
  • When the voice interpreter code switched from English to Tagalog, some used that as a proof that FSL is indeed based on Tagalog. What a shameless exposure of ignorance!
  • Some “anti” FSL washed their hands into saying that they’re not really against FSL. They just don’t want it to be used as a medium of instruction in schools. But the proposed bill is not only confined in classrooms. It must be used in all media and services including courts, hospitals, government offices and TV news interpreting.
  • Majority of the attendees were from the academe. So the “fear” of FSL being used as the “sole” language in classrooms was loudly expressed.
  • The Filipino Deaf Community was raised up. Who can be identified as part of the community and who are those who are not? Who belongs to the big “D” and those in the small “d”? This “branding” of people is a tough nut to crack.

Now, what really excited me was that the heated discussions among hearing participants (including some deaf protagonists of course) spilled over to the deaf audience. I heard that during the first committee hearing, there was only one participant from the FSL group. As expected, he was succumbed by those who were not in agreement with FSL. And so he rallied the cause and the historic Deaf March for FSL bill transpired in the morning before the second committee hearing. FSL made a strong showing in round two.


But during this third hearing, the “SEE” group brought with them a group of their deaf supporters. So the so-called, pro-FSL and anti-FSL among the Filipino Deaf community “surfaced”. The real excitement happened when they gathered outside the conference hall after the session. It was there when they made exchanges of perspective about the cause. I cannot help but stayed on to see what their real sentiments were. When Cong. Tinio joined the discussion among the deaf groups, I volunteered to voice for him. Here is what I gathered:

  • The “SEE” deaf group were not TOTALLY AGAINST FSL. Some of them even signed in FSL. But what they don’t want is for FSL to be mandated in all schools. They only want FSL to be taught as one of the subjects and SEE to be maintained as the main medium of instruction. They simply don’t want FSL to be strictly imposed on them.
  • The “FSL” deaf group lightly argued that the law must be implemented and that FSL must be recognized in ALL schools.
  • Some asked if FSL will be implemented in all schools, will oral schools be included? How could that be? What about those who are late-deafened? Will there be exclusions on the bill? If that’s the case, then the essence of the bill, which is FSL for all will not be met.

In the end, the deaf community agreed to have further talks about the issues raised. What’s important is that they don’t close their doors into making their points heard. As for me, I still believe that FSL be recognized as a native language of the Filipino Deaf and must be taught during their formative years. But the Filipino Deaf must be given a choice. It is their right.

On to round four….. 🙂

K-12 to use sign language as mother tongue for deaf

This is a repost from Yahoo news.

By Mikhail Franz E. Flores, VERA Files
Now that the K to 12 system of education is being enforced in the country and native languages have begun to be used as medium of instruction from kindergarten to Grade 3, deaf children will also get the chance to use their mother tongue: sign language.

The Deaf Education Council (DEC) began consultation with deaf educators in developing a sign language curriculum for non-hearing pupils at a forum at the University of the Philippines College of Education Auditorium last month.

The DEC and the deaf community will decide what sign language public schools will use in the mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) for the deaf.

The MTB-MLE is an integral part of the DepEd’s K to 12 educational reform program which added two years to the erstwhile 10-year basic education cycle. The mother tongue will be the medium of instruction from kindergarten to Grade 3. The languages include Tagalog, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Ilocano, Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Tausug, Maguindanaoan, Maranao and Chavacano.
If adopted by DepEd, Filipino Sign Language (FSL) would be the “13th mother tongue language.”
DEC was formed on the recommendation of Education Secretary Armin Luistro, who met with members of the deaf community last September. The council is mandated to provide direction and facilitate efforts to improve deaf education in the country.

The group is composed of four non-hearing and three hearing members. The non-hearing members are Rey Lee, president of the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD) as the council chair; PFD secretary George Lintag; Raphael Domingo, coordinator of Education Access for the Deaf at the Center for Education Access and Development (CEAD); and Yvette Apurado Bernardo, an executive board of the Phil-Sports Federation of the Deaf.

The hearing members are Therese Bustos a deaf education specialist from UP; Liza Martinez; director of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center and Theresa Christine dela Torre, CEAD director.
Bustos said the project is gathering volunteers to develop the curriculum. Four working committees are set to be formed to develop a curriculum for each grade level, she said.

As a language of its own, sign language must be institutionalized in schools to help non-hearing children learn in their own mother language, said Dina Ocampo, dean of the University of the Philippines College of Education.

“If we are able to mainstream signs in the Department of Educationprogramming, then we will reach more and more deaf children,” she said.

Ocampo added that deaf education is more of a language matter rather than the content of the curriculum or materials.

“The main core issue, I think, is language,” she said.

Bustos clarified that sign language is separate from spoken languages. Thus, FSL, the language used by more than half of Filipinos with hearing disability, is different from Filipino.

“Ang may koneksiyon lang sa wikang senyas na nakakonekta sa wikang sinasalita ay ang finger spelling. Lahat ng senyas ay walang kinalaman sa wikang sinasalita (Only finger spelling is related to the spoken language. All other signs have no relation with the spoken language),” Bustos said.

Bustos said that around 54 percent of Filipinos with hearing disability use FSL, which is the preferred sign language to be used as medium of instruction. However, the deaf community will still have the final say on what sign language to use for their own MTB-MLE program.

At present, the Signed Exact English (SEE), a manually encoded adaptation of spoken English, is being used as the official language for deaf students, said DepEd Undersecretary Yolanda Quijano.
The deaf community, however, prefers the FSL over the SEE since Filipinos have their own culture and identity and the FSL better reflects these.

Bustos also said the exact number of deaf schools is difficult to determine since most of them are dependent on the availability of teachers.

“Once a teacher resigns, the program is also removed,” Bustos said. The country, though, has one residential school for the deaf, the Philippine School for the Deaf.

The 2000 Census shows that around 120,000 of the total PWD population are deaf. The census puts the total number of PWDs at 942,098 or 1.23 percent of the total population of the country.The 2010 census has not been released.

A 2011 World Health Organization study said PWDs make up about 15 percent of a country’s population, especially in developing countries. This would then mean more than 13 million Filipino are PWDs.
One in two Filipinos with hearing and speech impairment has had some elementary education, 28 percent some high school, 20 percent some college and two percent up to postgraduate, according to a Social Weather Stations survey.

(VERA Files is a partner of the “Fully Abled Nation” campaign that seeks to increase participation of PWDs in the 2013 elections and other democratic process. Fully Abled Nation is supported by The Asia Foundation and the Australian Agency for International Development. VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for “true.”)

Sign Language in Europe Under Threat?

pictures of 2 sign language interpreters worki...
Image via Wikipedia

In my country, we are still patiently lobbying, protesting and persuading people both in the government and private sector to recognize that there exists such a language as Filipino Sign Language for the past two decades. Now here comes a distressing news that Europe is threatening the very existence of sign language? This is discouraging, very discouraging indeed.

We have always looked up to Europe and USA as a good role models when it comes to protecting the rights of deaf people and their strong advocacy in the use of sign language as their mode of communication especially in schools for the deaf. But now, we are doubtful as to the future of this very special language. I just hope they would find a win-win solution on this.

I reposted the news article here taken from the World Federation of the Deaf official website as reference:

WFD – EUD conference attendees noted with alarm that the status of sign languages is under threat in Denmark and the Netherlands. Recent developments in Denmark have led to the adoption of an educational philosophy which denies deaf and hard of hearing children any visually accessible communication, including the right to education in sign language. At the same time the Netherlands is undergoing debates over sign language’s place in the education of deaf children.

World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and European Union of the Deaf (EUD) together with the Ă…l Experiential College and Conference Center for Deaf People and with financial support from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry are organizing a conference from 6th to 9th November in Ă…l, Norway. The conference titled Sign Languages as Endangered Languages brings together deaf community leaders, academics and educators to debate the status of sign languages and emerging trends in sign language education.

Monday’s keynote presenter, professor emeritus Stuart Blume, from University of Amsterdam discussed the globalisation of technology and the start and spread of cochlear implantation programmes. According to Blume, deaf community leaders do not seem to have the same networks and access to politicians and media as the advocates of the cochlear implants. He also introduced idea of learning from the indigenous peoples’ experience in promoting their rights and suggested deaf communities to build coalitions and look for allies in anthropologists, sociologists and researchers on a national level.

President of the Danish Deaf Association (DDL) Ms. Janne Boye Niemelä presented the alarming situation in Denmark where 99% of all newly born children are offered cochlear implants; yet at the same time the provided support services do not include sign language but instead concentrate on auditory verbal therapy. With the number of deaf schools decreasing the recent developments in the Danish society would seem to aim at promoting speech to the detriment of Danish sign language. Furthermore, according to Ms. Corrie Tijsseling the deaf community in the Netherlands is currently dealing with a similar debate on sign language’s place in deaf children’s education.

The president of the Swedish Association of the Hard of Hearing (HRF) and the former president of International Federation of Hard of Hearing (IFHOH) Mr. Jan-Peter Strömgren highlighted that both hard of hearing and deaf children should have the right to bilingualism and give them the opportunity to choose later their linguistic identity. He also recommended good cooperation between associations of hard of hearing and deaf people pointing out that also many hard of hearing people use sign language.
The conference will continue on Tuesday concentrating on laws and best practices in promoting and protecting sign languages.

Going the Deaf way or stick with the hearing world?

I recently came across a blog post enumerating the Pros and Cons of Being Hard of Hearing. It was an interesting read so I posted it in my Facebook wall. A late deafened FB friend and a professional photojournalist Raphael Torralba took notice of that link and re-posted it in a prominent Yahoo group for Persons With Disabilities in the Philippines. As far as I can remember, he is still struggling with his signing skills.
A few comments and sentiments were given in response to his post. Some even connected this with difficulty in employment among deaf people, heavily dependent on sign language interpreters, a great scarcity of competent interpreters and the need for the deaf to develop lipreading skills in order to “cope up” with the hearing world. One commenter even challenged the Filipino Deaf community to “speak up” and “think of innovative ways to cope up with their disability”.
They are all true. That’s the reality. But then again, a more underlying question must be asked. If a person became deaf at a later age, should he stick with the hearing world, or go the Deaf way? 
At MCCID, we have a new student who is a late deafened. She was already in her third year college when her hearing suddenly deteriorated which according to her mom, has no idea how it came about. Since she is new to signing, she can only talk. So it’s hard to communicate with her even with her family. She can’t sign but she can’t hear my voice either. She can talk but she can’t lipread very well. So she is neither here nor there.
She became deaf only about a couple of years ago. But she has a very strong will and determination to succeed. Her favorite book is the “Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. She has been with the deaf world only since June and she is adjusting slowly. Everybody surrounding her (her deaf classmates) are doing their best to communicate with her. It is I who is having tremendous effort to go through with her. I am always at quandary whether to sign or to talk. I am used to signing with my mouth closed in order to focus more on the essence of my thoughts. But since she is still grasping for signs, I have to mouth every words. Shouting is of no use since she’s totally deaf. This is very frustrating both for me and her.
So I encouraged her to improve her signing skills and at the same time rely on gestures or manual movement in order for her to understand the instructions (which is actually the purpose of sign language). Every time she wants to say something to me, she talks. But I refrained her from doing that. Instead, I encouraged her to practice her signing so that she can easily understand us. I believe that she must embrace who she is now. She is a deaf person. She must live with this predicament and find a way to survive with it.
I did not ask her to completely forget about speaking. MCCID hired her to do part time office work. Since our School Registrar and President only knows a few signs and relies heavily on speech, then she must talk to them. This proves to be a win-win situation for her.
Am I doing the right thing? That I can’t answer right now. She is still a work in progress. But only time will tell. 🙂

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