Deaf People and MRT

A little over a week ago, I was invited together with one of the deaf trainors of our college for the deaf and my deaf idol Moises Libot, by the HR Personnel of the Manila Light Rail Transit Corporation (MRT) as one of their resource speakers. We lectured about the needs and concerns of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in accessing the mass transport system, specifically, using the MRT system.

Long lines of commuters using MRTThis awareness project was part of the series of Sensitivity Seminar for Persons With Disabilities conducted by the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) in partnership with other disabled peoples organization. Aside from me and Moises, other teams were assigned to speak about the needs of those with visual impairments, psycho-social disabilities and mobility impairments. So far this year, we already conducted these seminars in various government agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Department of Science and Technology. We also had these trainings in private firms such as Cebu Pacific Airlines and HSBC.

At first, I did not want to participate because I don’t want to add more tomatoes thrown on the faces of those who manage this part-government part-private company due to their sheer inefficiency and blatant incompetence. Aside from that, deaf and HOH don’t have any mobility issues. They just want to be left alone and free to travel wherever they go.

Sea of commuters enter the MRT carriages.But then, I believe that it’s about time for the government to be aware that among those with physical disabilities, it is the deaf and hard-of-hearing people who use these mass transport system very often. They also fall in line to buy tickets, brave the harsh weather and sea of people in order to commute from home to work. And they are the group of people who do not need any major physical modifications in the system in order to access the service. And since they are one of those who suffer together with the rest of the commuting public, the management might perceive them as “one of those that can be ignored.”

The seminar was held in three batches. I had a prior commitment on the first day so I joined in the last two batches. The audience were a mix of HR Personnel, front-end service personnel like ticketing officials, crowd control and security personnel.

Deaf Trainor Moises introduces himself.
First I explained to them about the nature of deaf people by giving them a quick guess on who they believe are persons who cannot hear from the photo I showed to them. As expected, majority of them made wild guesses which made them realize that deafness is a hidden disability. They cannot just pinpoint a deaf person from a crowd, unless, they made sign language gestures or show their PWD IDs.

I then explained to them about what-not-to-do in dealing with deaf people. I also gave them the politically correct terms in addressing the person and the community. And finally, the one they are excited about, we taught them about fingerspelling using Filipino Sign Language as well as a few polite expressions.

I enumerated to them about the problems deaf people encounter in riding the MRT. These are:

  • MRT/LRT Personnel cannot distinguish a deaf passenger from a hearing one;
  • Difficulty COMMUNICATING with staff behind ticketing glass screens (lip reading on dirty, stained or poorly lit glass screens);
  • Difficulty understanding signages, written information, ticket price displays and announcements on station stops;
  • Lacking visual alarms for emergency and door closures

Me explaining to the MRT PersonnelIn the Philippines, Persons With Disabilities, pregnant women, children accompanied by their parents and senior citizens are given priority seats in these mass transport systems. So the deaf people are allowed to use the first train cabin reserved for these groups. However, they are usually not given priority in falling in line since, as one of the problems I mentioned, security personnel are having difficulty knowing deaf people from among the sea of commuters.

However, based on their reaction and comments, the rest of the problems can be solved and categorized as a “reasonable accommodation”. They promised that they would look into it by giving recommendations to the proper decision makers. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that they would do what they promised.

In behalf of MCCID and the deaf community, we are truly grateful to Metro Rail Transport Corporation for conducting this worthwhile activity. 🙂

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Empowered Deaf Tricycle Driver!

instructions on where to drop off in Filipino

Empowering! This photo of a tricycle driven by a deaf man in Mexico, Pampanga is currently making rounds in social media. It already has more than 10,000 likes and nearly 2,500 shares in Facebook courtesy of Philippine Star as of this writing. Passengers can point to the location where he/she wants to drop off.

“Having such condition, he still works for his family. Such an inspiring person,” says Alyoza Malig Bondoc, the woman who posted the photo on Facebook.

I just wish they also posted the name of the deaf. Nevertheless, he’s truly amazing! 🙂

Perils of being a sign language interpreter in the PH

This article really touched my heart. Not because I personally experienced this, but because in spite of the difficulties and almost thankless job of giving voice to the deaf, we are still here serving them.

It’s really hard to interpret for the deaf here in the Philippines! The process of converting spoken words into signs that the deaf can digest requires a highly technical person with superhuman ability because you need to do everything in split second. But then most of the people out there from the parents of the deaf up to our government would even like to make our services free of charge all because of charity. Try doing what we are doing and see if your brains will get blown out.  Thank you very much to JP, my idol from the south, for exposing the plight of these unsung heroes, most especially my closest friends Liza Presnillo and Ma’am Liway Caldito.

Here is the article from Rappler which I copy-pasted here from the original site.

Sign language interpreting is a back-breaking job, but is also one of the most noble professions in the world. Without interpreters, deaf persons would be disenfranchised.

John Paul Ecarma Maunes
Published 10:30 AM, July 10, 2015
Updated 10:30 AM, Jul 10, 2015

BRIDGING THE GAP. The late Liza Presnillo in one of her many sign language interpretation engagements for TV.

BRIDGING THE GAP. The late Liza Presnillo in one of her many sign language interpretation engagements for TV.

The entire Filipino deaf community is mourning the untimely demise of veteran Filipino sign Language Interpreter Flordeliza Presnillo on April 8, 2015.

She battled breast cancer for nearly 5 years.

She was one of the founding board members of the Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI). She also pioneered the news inset sign language interpretation in Philippine television, as a news interpreter for TV5 since 2011. Her accurate and clear elucidation of information, including even the sarcasm and animated reporting of the Tulfo brothers, has gained her the respect of the Filipino audience.

Before her TV stint, she first became an icon in attending to the accessibility needs of the Filipino deaf community. She served as an interpreter in the academe, social events, national, and international conferences. She also helped individuals get through employment opportunities, medical and legal services.

Presnillo mentored a lot of aspiring signers and junior interpreters by molding them to become exceptional advocates for the rights of deaf persons. She also spearheaded a campaign for the rights and recognition of Filipino sign language interpreters.

She did all these despite her failing health.

In spite her dedication and undying sacrifice for the deaf community, she struggled financially and received no support from the government during her fight against breast cancer.

Same advocacy, same fate

Meanwhile, another advocate, had the same fate. Liwanag Caldito has been a teacher for deaf kids in Pasay for nearly 30 years, and yet, she was easily dismissed from work with only a small retirement benefit.

Her dismissal came after developing Parkinson’s disease. This, after a robbing incident while on board a bus on her way to school.

After losing work, she ran her own non-governmental organization in 2007.

Unfortunately, just a few months ago, she learned she has to undergo an operation for complications in her spinal disc. Caldito had to raise funds because the operation was too expensive.

She received no government support. All the help she got came from family and friends who rendered their services pro-bono.

These are just some painful misfortunes that sign language interpreters have experienced here in the Philippines. They also suffer from prolonged standing, carpal tunnel disorder, varicose veins, back and spinal cord injuries, among other degenerative health disorders caused by stress.

Many of them do not get paid at all times because they are stereotyped as volunteers or charity workers.

Hurdles

In courtrooms, sign language interpreters play a critical role in extracting precise information, especially whenever they handle cases involving abused deaf persons. At times, they may fall prey to death threats from abusers and syndicates. Some don’t receive security measures from the court or police, hence end up protecting themselves. Others are left with no choice but to withdraw from the case.

The most frustrating part is when they end up scrutinized by the court itself. This still happens even if the Supreme Court already issued a memo in 2004, saying that court administrators should approve requests of lower courts for the hiring of sign language interpreters. Contracted interpreters should be paid at least P500 to P1,000 per hour, including transportation and meals expenses per appearance.

Care

People and institutions that benefit from sign language interpreters should ensure that the likes of Presnillo and Caldito are well taken care of.

They should be provided with work benefits like medical and hazard insurance, secured employment, and ample time to rest in between interpretations.

Those who benefit from their services should take the lead in advocating and institutionalizing the rights of interpreters.

Sign language interpreting is a back-breaking job, but is also one of the most noble professions in the world. Without interpreters, deaf persons would be disenfranchised.

Interpreters are known to sharpen their skills well because they are aware of the growing demand of this profession. There are only less than a hundred enlisted professional interpreters in the Philippines.

Unless the Philippine government implements policies and programs that truly recognize the critical role of interpreters by passing the Filipino Sign Language Act, the daily oppression and discrimination of interpreters will continue.

Unless the Filipino deaf leaders, advocates, and other stakeholders take stronger action on this issue, the Philippines will continuously lose modern-day heroes like Presnillo. – Rappler.com

John Pael Ecarma Maunes is a registered nurse and the executive director of Philippine Accessible Deaf Services Inc.

Deaf teen deemed ‘medically inadmissible’ to join mother in Canada

So, even in a rich country like Canada, discrimination against the deaf still exists. Their main reason is that it would be costly, $91,500 to be exact, for them to shoulder her “disability”. Would the discrimination also be because she is a foreigner, specifically, a Filipino? This action is what we Filipinos termed as “Pera pera lang pala yan!” (It’s just a money thing.) tsk tsk tsk

News below:

Image from thespec.com website

Filipino caregiver Karen Talosig is faced with the choice of giving up her teenage daughter in the Philippines or her dream of permanent residence in Canada.

After waiting in the queue for her immigrant status for five years, Talosig received a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada this week that her 14-year-old daughter, Jazmine, has been found “medically inadmissible” to join her in Canada because she is deaf.

While immigration officials speculated Jazmine’s deafness could cost Canadians $91,500 for health-related services over five years, Talosig said the girl is just a normal kid and does not require any special care.

“Jazmine loves photography. She loves dancing. She enjoys cooking with my mom. She likes Selena Gomez like a lot of teenagers do even though she can’t hear her music,” said Talosig, 38, who says she works four jobs, up to 80 hours a week, looking after children, the elderly and a paraplegic client in Vancouver.

“She is very independent, highly functional. The only difference is she is deaf. She was born so profoundly deaf that even a hearing aid is not needed. To me, the government’s decision is discriminatory.”

A registered nurse in the Philippines, Talosig came to Canada in 2007 under the then live-in caregiver program. In 2010, she worked enough hours to qualify for permanent residency and submitted her application.

Talosig’s immigration application was opened at the Manila visa post at the end of 2013 and Jazmine was asked to submit to a medical exam, during which authorities learned she was deaf. Last June, Talosig was asked to file further documentation on the girl’s condition and needs.

“Your child . . . is a person whose health condition might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on social services in Canada,” said the June 3, 2014, letter from the Canadian embassy in Makali City.

“This client has bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss (deafness) that might reasonably lead to her requiring social services (special education funding) the cost of which would likely exceed the average Canadian per capita costs over five years.”

Based on reviews of Jazmine’s medical file and history, both the Burnaby Public School Board and the British Columbia Provincial School for the Deaf have submitted support letters arguing that the girl will not likely require special education funding.

“We do not anticipate any additional costs to educating Jazmine at the B.C. School for the Deaf, beyond the regular per pupil funding for all students in B.C.,” wrote the board’s assistant superintendent Heather Hart.

Helene Whitfield, who has hired Talosig to look after her two children for years, said the family’s supporters, including relatives and other employers, have promised to provide for all Jazmine’s needs if required.

“Karen is hardworking and trustworthy. She works four jobs in order to cover all her legal fees. She raised my child at the expense of not raising her own,” said Whitfield.

“After almost a year of providing the Manila visa post with every item of documentation, they still refused the child to join her mother here in Canada, and now the mother has to either give up her rights to the child or leave Canada. Neither of which is a good option.”

Whitfield said a decision on “excessive demand” of social services should be based on the actual circumstances of an individual and not on general stereotypes.

Talosig said she has written to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander in the hopes he will listen to her plea and reverse the bureaucrats’ decision on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

“I’m just devastated,” said Talosig. “Jazmine’s father died of a severe asthma attack when she was 8-months-old. I had to leave her to my parents when she was 7. I’m all she has. All we want is to reunite in Canada and have a better life here.”

Both Alexander’s office and the immigration ministry declined to comment on the case, but said Talosig has been given another 60 days to respond to the notice officials sent her this week.

 View the news from its original site from this link.

Filipino Deaf Candidate asked to resign from Beauty Contest

This is again another act of discrimination against the deaf! Binibining Pilipinas is a national organization which holds the annual search for Filipina beauties who will represent the country in international contests such as Ms. Universe, Ms. International, Ms. Tourism and Ms. Supranational. According to their website’s FAQ, here are their requirements:

  • A single lady, 17 to 25 years old
  • A Filipino citizen, minimum 5’6” in height with pleasing personality
  • At least a high school graduate and of good moral character

Now, let us check the requirements of Christine Balaguer:

  • A single lady, 17 to 25 years old – Check!
  • A Filipino citizen, minimum 5’6” in height with pleasing personality – Check!
  • At least a high school graduate and of good moral character – Check!

I don’t see any requirement saying, Can hear and speak. Then why the hell was she asked to resign? She is already among the finalist and passed the batteries of test before landing into the top 34. Why? Why? Why?

Here is Rappler.com’s news article about this glaring discrimination published last month:

Deaf candidate Christine Balaguer removed from Bb Pilipinas 2015

Christine says being asked to resign by the organizers has left her ‘depressed’ because it was her big dream to be the first deaf candidate to compete.

CHRISTINE BALAGUER. File photo by Melvin Sia

CHRISTINE BALAGUER. File photo by Melvin Sia

MANILA, Philippines – Binibining Pilipinas Charities Incorporated (BCPI) has replaced Christine Balaguer in the official list of candidates for this year’s pageant.

Christine was announced as one of the 34 candidates last January 10 and was photographed in some of the girls’ activities. (IN PHOTOS: The 34 Bb Pilipinas 2015 candidates)

On her Facebook page, Christine said that she was asked by BCPI to resign, which made her “depressed.” She added that it was her big dream to be the first deaf candidate to compete.

Christine was replaced by Cannielle Faith Santos from Marilao, Bulacan. Christine previously joined Miss World Philippines 2014, where she placed in the Top 10. (READ: The Binibining Pilipinas 2015 returning hopefuls)

She is the second candidate to be replaced in this year’s list. Candidate #9 Kimberle Mae Penchon dropped the competition and was replaced by Maolin Yalung. – Rappler.com

Paging BCPI!!! Count this blogger as one of those protesting against this discrimination!

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