Can a deaf person be a reliable witness?

I chanced upon an article in Nikkei Asian Review which exposes the misleadings done by hugely popular internet search engines Google and Baidu which forcefully directs us to “floods of advertisements and micro-targeted results” and recommended the use of lesser-known but becoming increasingly popular sites such as ByteDance of China and DuckDuckGo of the US. I got curious about these two alternative sites so I tried them out.

I opened only the DuckDuckGo site since the other one is only for the Chinese market. The screen looks like the minimalist web style of Google.com. But what’s strikingly good is what appears at the bottom of the search box which says “The search engine that doesn’t track you.”, the tagline “Privacy, simplified” and the popup box advising us that “Your data shouldn’t be for sale.”

I then tried typing “deaf Philippines”. I was pleasantly surprised that the top search was rightfully one of the first non-profit foundations that work to educate impoverished deaf in Bohol, followed by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf Wikipedia article which I created in January 2008 using my Wiki name Jomanila. Our school for the deaf landed in the top 20. However, I was a bit shocked that the hugely popular and limelight hogging college in Manila is nowhere to be found in the top 50 results.

Deaf on a witness stand
Deaf on a witness stand (not the actual event)
Google Photo courtesy of http://www.interpretereducation.org

Enough of the long intro. I like to focus on the article in Philippine Star Online Edition that did not even rank among the top results in Google which I only discovered in Duckduckgo. It’s about a case of a “deaf-mute” (a term used in the article which I so much disdain) person who became an eyewitness in the rape-slay of a single lady, Erica. Here is the entire story as narrated by a famous Filipino lawyer, Atty. Jose C. Sison which appeared in his column on June 27, 2017:

Deaf-mute witness
Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) – June 27, 2017 – 4:00pm

All persons who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perception to others may be witnesses in cases being tried in court. But are deaf mutes competent witnesses? What must be shown so that they can qualify as witnesses? These are among the issues resolved in this case of Erica.

Erica was single and working as a bookkeeper in a Credit Cooperative located in Manila. On the first working day of the year, she reported to the office bringing with her a camera to take pictures of her officemates for souvenir before going back to her hometown on the occasion of their town fiesta. At 5 o’clock, she left the office bringing with her the camera and P3,000 cash money for expenses in the celebration.

She arrived at about 7:30 pm and alighted along the highway about 300 meters from her house. Across the highway was a waiting shed with four persons inside, namely Andy and his brother Tony alias “Baba” because of his elongated chin, Rolly, alias “Boy Tattoo,” and Sergio, alias “Pipi” because he was deaf mute. The four just came from a beer house where they had a drinking spree with four other barkadas since daytime. They left when they got drunk going to a rice field. On the way, they pass by the waiting shed where Andy and Rolly took “Pidol” cough syrup.

Then Andy, Tony and Rolly left the shed when they saw Erica on her way home along a road which was very dark and silent and surrounded by tall trees and grasses. They asked Sergio to leave already. But instead of leaving, Sergio hid behind the bushes and trees, and thus saw the ensuing incident.

He saw his three barkadas caught up with Erica, as Rolly pushed her while Andy got her shoulder bag. Then Tony and Rolly pushed her against a tree and stabbed her several times in the neck. At this point Andy also joined the two and stabbed Erica until she fell down. As Erica was lying on the ground, Rolly pushed the bottle of cough syrup into her private parts aided by Tony. Then Andy hugged Erica who was still alive and resisting the assault. Together, they undressed Erica and successively raped her, starting with Andy, then Rolly and then Tony. As they take their respective turns in raping Erica, the two others were holding her hands.

After raping Erica, Andy took her bag, Rolly got her camera and cash money while Tony got her ring, earrings and watch. Thereafter, Rolly and Tony went to the rice field while Andy proceeded to the opposite direction.

When the already stiffed body of Erica lying on her back was found by the rice field owner the next day, and upon investigation by police investigators, the Provincial Prosecutor filed two Informations for rape with homicide and theft against Andy, Tony and Rolly.

Andy was arrested and arraigned first and pleaded not guilty. His brother Tony went into hiding upon learning of Andy’s arrest and was apprehended only one year later in the course of the trial. He also pleaded not guilty. But Rolly remained at large.

On five different dates of trial over a year, Sergio the deaf-mute eyewitness narrated what he saw through sign language interpreted by an expert who had 22 years of teaching experience in a school for the deaf, exposure in TV programs and had testified in five other previous court proceedings. So after trial, the RTC found the brothers Andy and Tony guilty as charged despite their denial and alibi that they were at home when the crime happened.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Andy and Tony contended that the RTC should not have given full faith and credit to the eyewitness account of Sergio who had no formal schooling in a special school for deaf mutes so that conjectures, surmises and inconsistencies in his testimony could not be discounted. They also attacked his character, claiming that he is a drunkard and a drug addict with appending case of rape.

But the SC still affirmed the RTC decision. The SC said that deaf mutes are NOT incompetent witnesses as long as they: (1) can understand and appreciate the sanctity of an oath: (2) can comprehend facts they are going to testify on; and (3) can communicate their ideas through a qualified interpreter. In this case, the interpreter is definitely qualified with a special training and education for interpreting sign language. The imperfections or inconsistencies in Sergio’s testimony do not detract from the credibility of his testimony much less justify its total rejection. What is material is that he personally knew the accused, was with them when the incident happened and had personally witnessed the rape-slay and theft three meters away from the scene. He did not waiver in the identification of the three accused despite the rigorous cross examination and positively pointed to them as the persons who raped and killed Erica and took her personal effects.

The character of Sergio and the pending case against him does not disqualify him from becoming a witness. For the test to measure the value of a witness’ testimony is whether or not such is in conformity to knowledge and consistent with experience of mankind.

The defense of alibi must yield to the positive identification of Andy and Tony by Sergio. Moreover the place where the crimes happened was just ten to fifteen minutes away from the residence of Andy. In the case of Tony his flight should be taken as an admission of guilt. There was also conspiracy among the three accused.

So they are really guilty as charged and sentenced to two death penalties upon each of them for the rape with homicide and imprisonment of 6 months to 2 years, 11 months and 10 days for theft (People vs. Tuangco et.al. G.R. 130331, November 22, 2000)

As per the narration, Sergio, the deaf witness did not attend formal schooling so he is what we call low-verbal deaf. He is also a hearing-friendly person judging from the buddies he accompanies with. But he is also very strong-willed, and unafraid to tell the truth even though the criminals were his barkadas and even if they counter-charged him.

The Supreme Court of the Philippines affirmed that a deaf person can become a competent witness so long as he/she believes in the sacredness of oath, understands the facts and, most importantly, CAN COMMUNICATE HIS THOUGHTS THROUGH A COMPETENT SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER.

So, to answer the title question, YES, the deaf can be a reliable witness. Oh, I just wish I knew who the sign language interpreter is so that I will hug him/her so tight and shake his/her hand congratulating his/her awesome skill and dedication. I hope he/she reads this article and contact me. 🙂

You can read the original article on the Philstar Online Edition page.

  • – Highlights and all caps mine

On Deafness and Depression, [Deaf Youth Commits Suicide]

A couple of days ago (January 20), the entire Filipino Deaf Community (as shown in their Facebook reactions) was shocked when a twenty-five year old deaf committed suicide by jumping off JR Borja Bridge in Cagayan De Oro City at around 9:55pm of January 19. Ryan C. Lutching, a former student of La Salle University – School for the Deaf in Ozamiz City and an active member of a deaf group in Mindanao, left his smartphone on top of his red bag turned on showing his suicide note before killing himself.

Facebook post courtesy of Bryan Maglangit Mutas

Brian Maglangit Mutas first posted the incident on his Facebook account. In his photos, bystanders and onlookers were looking at the bridge where it happened. I guess no one was there to save him during that time. Brian also took pictures of the messages that Ryan posted on his cellphone. Ryan’s body was found two days later (January 21) washed away at Macabalan river shore.

Facebook post courtesy of Ms. Sarah Osorio Talibong

Messages on his phone indicated that Ryan was apparently talking to his “Bro” or brother and that he is ending his life because he is undergoing depression. He said that he misses his father who already died and he felt alone because his relatives and other family members never talk to him. My deaf friends told me that only his father knows how to sign. Ryan also mentioned that he got jealous of his male friends who already have relationships and they even teased him for being single.

Ryan mentioned depress three times.
Ryan mentioned “depress” three times (Only two appeared here because the other one was on the previous page.) Note: I blocked the names of other persons mentioned to protect their privacy.

Strangely, Ryan posted this cryptic image on the same exact date he died one year ago. Some of my deaf friends informed me that it was his father who died on that day.

Ryan posted this in 2018 on the exact same date he committed suicide.

Earlier this month, Bryan Velasco, a Filipino rock band Razorback’s drummer fell to his death from a condominium. He was 41 years old, and it was an apparent suicide. Velasco jumped from the 34th floor and landed on a canopy. There were no other injuries. The drummer went live on Facebook and filmed his death Wednesday morning.

What is depression?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is…

a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.

A few decades ago, depression is commonly associated with being sad and grieving from say the death of a loved one, losing a job or ending a relationship. But now, scientists have found out that it is a medical condition that distinguishes it from just “being sad”.

Symptoms of a Person undergoing Depression

You or your loved ones show signs of depression if they are:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood for a couple of weeks or more
  • Losing interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed
  • Having changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Losing energy or increased fatigue
  • Increasing in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Having difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thinking or mentioning about death or suicide

What about depression and deafness?

One reason why I made a post about this is to document the incident because, until today, mainstream news media hasn’t picked it up. The other is to inform everyone that depression is a serious condition that affects everyone, including deaf people. Studies have found that deaf individuals have higher rates of psychiatric disorder than those who are hearing, while at the same time encountering difficulties in accessing mental health services. These factors might increase the risk of suicide. However, the burden of suicidal behavior in deaf people is currently unknown.

Deaf people are more vulnerable to depression and suicidal tendencies because:

  1. Most of them do not have someone to talk to. As what happened to Ryan, his father passed away and he was the only one he can communicate with. Other members of his family do not know sign language. Lack of communication results in low self-esteem, delays in learning and isolation.
  2. It’s hard to share or talk about how deaf feels or thinks because they have a very small community. The deaf community is a very tight group. Everybody knows everyone. Telling one of them about your problem is like announcing it to the entire “nation”. This sometimes leads to embarrassment, negative branding and even becoming an outcast from the community.
  3. Many hearing people don’t know or understand Deaf culture. Some of them still perceive that deaf people are dumb (i.e. reading a broken English sentence), does not care about others (i.e. not mingling with other hearing people) and moves their hands and face like a fool (i.e. doing sign language and facial expression). These misconceptions often lead to teasing, discrimination and abuse.

I always love being with deaf people. I have no deaf relatives. But I have grown to love them for nearly 30 years. They are fun to be with and they basically “enjoy life”. But deaf people are primarily human beings who react from negative situations and emotions. They are more vulnerable to stress, mood swings and misery because of limited interaction with other people.

Sadly, as far as I know, there is no existing “Depression Helpline” in the Philippines that focuses on deaf people. The reason for this probably as enumerated above, is the lack of trained counselors/medical personnel who can sign fluently and understand deaf culture.

If you know of any deaf person who is experiencing depression, try to…

  • Tell him to talk to a friend, family, or someone he can trust.
  • Encourage him to visit a doctor and talk about his problem. The doctor will be able to check his mental health and discuss his next step. Remember to book an interpreter.
  • Be a friend. Learn sign language. Understand the deaf culture.

Doing this may save his/her precious life.

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?

Maria Lena Buhay Foundation: To talk and be heard in the silent world

Very rare do I post schools for the deaf using oral method of teaching because as you may have already noticed, I lean towards the sign language side. But for this one, I really need to repost it because of the wonderful work their institution have achieved these past 25 years. This article written by Angelo Garcia which was posted on the Manila Bulletin is about the first and one of the few successful oral schools in the Philippines, Maria Lena Buhay Foundation. Enjoy! 🙂

MUSIC TO THEIR EARS — This group of musicians (above) may look ordinary but they are all deaf.
MUSIC TO THEIR EARS — This group of musicians (above) may look ordinary but they are all deaf.

MANILA, Philippines — After almost 25 years, Maria Lena Buhay Memorial Foundation, Inc. (MLBMFI) founder and executive director Leticia Buhay proudly says that the school’s graduates are now productive citizens of society, despite their hearing impairment.

“We have a graduate who is now an entrepreneur and owns a chain of coffee shops. Another one, who graduated as valedictorian, now teaches at a prestigious school. Another one has his own graphic design company,” Buhay shares.

This success, Mrs. Buhay says, can be attributed to the fact that they have taught their hearing-impaired students how to speak. MLBMFI is the first oral school in the country for the hearing impaired.

“We believe that every hearing impaired child has the capacity to learn how to talk. We already have proven that in our 25 years of service,” she says. “For me, it is harder to teach a class of five hearing impaired students than 40 hearing students. Mas mahirap kasi, you have to keep on repeating they only hear the word for the first time, especially the younger level. But as a speech therapist, the moment a hearing impaired utter a word, umaapaw ang aking kaligayahan. That’s what gratifies us all.”

Today, the non-profit, non-stock school has become one of the most valuable institutions in the field of special education.

FULL COMMITMENT

MLBMFI was founded in June 1987 in honor of Mrs. Buhay’s daughter, Maria Lena or Lenlen, a Psychology student of Ateneo de Manila University who passed away due to cancer.

A speech therapist, Buhay gave in to the request of her patients’ parents to put up a school where their children could learn how to speak.

“The parents felt that since natututo na ‘yung anak nila how to speak, ayaw na nila sa sign school. Ayaw din naman nila sa regular school kasi there are 40 or so students baka mag lag behind. So they needed something special for them,” she recalls.

After planning, the school initially had 10 students and three teachers, including Mrs. Buhay. But by the end of the school year, the school already had a total of 26 students. Year after year, they added grade levels until they completed all levels from pre-school to high school. Since it was a non-profit school, they had to rely on sponsorships, donations and the tuition fees from students. Those who couldn’t GARCIAafford receive tuition subsidy.

When things became too busy and the responsibility too heavy for her, Buhay started getting sick. She was advised to close the school if she wanted to live longer.

“My children asked me to stop. But no, my commitment is there and I enjoy what I was doing. So I resigned from my job as a university professor to devote my time to these children. I was 50 then. I bargained with my children, we could open the preschool and grade school and call off the high school. Kasi the time when they reach Grade 6, nakakapagsalita na sila, many of them were mainstreamable. So lumiit na enrolment namin,” she recalls.

Today, the school caters to only 25 students from preschool to Grade 7 since they limit the number of students per level. They also accept full and partial scholarships, depending on the available sponsorship.

OPTION TO TALK

Mrs. Buhay says that one of the school’s main accomplishments is that they have shown parents of children with hearing impairment that there is another option other than just sign language.

“We made people aware that there is another option to help hearing-impaired children and not just to help them how to sign. In other words, there is an option to learn how to talk,” Mrs. Buhay explains.

She says that it is important that when a child is diagnosed with hearing impairment, he or she should immediately undergo speech therapy. The first five years of a child’s life is the most important period in speech and language acquisition.

“Normally a child at six months can already babble. But if after that period, the child has not spoken, there is a cause for alarm already. Speech is talking by ear. If the sounds do not enter your ear, if you do not hear anything, you will not be able to speak. That is why the children have hearing aids to magnify the sound. So parents can bring the child to a diagnostician for immediate intervention,” she advises.

Since MLBMFI students know how to speak they are able to communicate properly and they can do almost everything a hearing child can do. In fact, the school has its own rhythm band. A group of hearing impaired students can play different music instruments!

“We develop them holistically. We develop them socially, we bring them around town. We teach them basic skills like cooking. And they enjoy other activities like playing and listening to music,” she says.

MORE OPPORTUNITIES IN THE TALKING WORLD

Mrs. Buhay says that although the students may not speak clearly like hearing people can, the important thing is that they can be understood. One of the advantages of a speaking person with hearing impairment is gaining employment. Since they can communicate, they have bigger chances of being employed.

“If a hearing impaired person is able to talk, his chances of being employed will be greater. There are certain organizations and companies that employ hearing impaired,” she says.

“We have to accept it that this is a talking world. A great majority of us talk, only a few sign. If they are able to talk, it is easier for them to be mainstreamed and take their place, normally, in society where everybody talks. Your chances will be greater,” she says.

She admits that she doesn’t know what the future holds for them but because of her dedicated teachers and staff, she is sure that MLBMFI’s legacy will continue, even for the next 25 years.

Deaf people working in Mindanao killer mines?

Happy New Year everyone! This is my first post for the year 2012!

Last Wednesday, I again accompanied my graduating students to vital government agencies to secure personal documents which they will use in applying for jobs after they graduate. MCCID has been assisting its graduating students in getting government documents for many years now.

Our first stop was getting their authenticated birth certificates from the National Statistics Office (NSO). I briefed them beforehand that I would only be there to escort them to the office and occasionally provide them some tips on how to fill up the forms. But actual applying for it would all be theirs to experience, including falling in a very long line.

landslide in a mountain in compostela valley provinceSo while waiting for them inside, a twenty-something guy approached me as I was giving instructions to my students in sign language. He taught I was also deaf so he signed to me. Surprised, I signed in return. I introduced myself politely although I hinted that he is also a hearing person. When I asked him if he can hear, he nodded. That was when we started introducing ourselves “normally”.

He begged not to disclose his full name. Being a Jehovah’s Witness exposed him to the deaf and sign language. He was at the NSO to get his birth certificate as part of the requirements in his job application.  When  he mentioned he was from Compostela Valley in Mindanao, I immediately asked him if there are deaf people working in the gold mines there. I want to know because of the recent news wherein a landslide in that province killed more than 30 persons. He claimed that there are at least five unschooled deaf adults toiling in the mines. He knew them first hand because in their religion, they are very faithful in doing house-to-house visitations to the deaf people. He was able to minister to some of them even for those who don’t know how to read and are unfamiliar with sign language. He felt sorry for them because their superiors don’t give them equal pay as compared with the regular mine workers even if they are exposed to the same dangers.

My next inquiry was if there were deaf workers who died in the recent landslide. He replied that there weren’t any deaf casualties out of the more than 30 persons who wasted their lives. This is a relief. But it’s still tragic that people, even those who cannot hear, must expose themselves to potential dangers just so they get a meager amount for their daily sustenance. I hope that the government would learn from this lesson and not to allow them to go back working in those danger zones.

Related articles

PRC vows reforms in aid of Deaf Licensure Exam for Teachers takers

PRESS RELEASE

October 18, 2011

The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) has committed to implementing reforms that will make the licensing examination for teachers more accessible to the Deaf.

In a dialogue with various organizations of the Deaf last Tuesday, PRC Chairperson Teresita R. Manzala vowed that such reforms would be in place when the Licensure Examination for Teachers is administered in March 2012.

The dialogue was facilitated by ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio Tinio. The participants included leaders of the Philippine Federation of the Deaf led by its President, Rey Lee; Philippine Deaf Resource Center Executive Director Dr. Liza Martinez; Dean Nikki Perez of the School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde; and Raphael Domingo of the Philippine Coalition-UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

PRC Chairperson Manzala was joined by Board for Professional Teachers Chairperson Dr. Faith M. Bachiller, and Director Amelia T. Empaynado of the Licensure Office.

The deaf activists and advocates raised concerns regarding the accessibility of the LET for deaf education graduates. According to them, Deaf education graduates find it difficult to pass the LET due to lack of sensitivity to the particular needs of Deaf takers. They pointed out the acute shortage of deaf teachers in the public school system’s Special Education centers, which can be filled if measures for the “reasonable accommodation” of deaf LET takers are taken by the PRC.

The PRC vowed to implement “transitional measures” for the upcoming LET in March 2012, such as allowing accredited interpreters to explain examination instructions in sign language and making changes to the physical arrangements to accommodate deaf exam takers. The Board of Professional Teachers will also work in close consultation with the Deaf community to craft better policies, including the drafting of a new PRC resolution regarding accessibility for the Deaf.

“We commend the PRC for their openness to the concerns of the Deaf. We thank PRC Chairperson Manzala for her personal commitment that reforms will be implemented by March 2012,” said Rep. Tinio. #

References:

ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio L. Tinio (0920-922-0817)

Julie Anne D. Tapit, Media Officer (0915-762-6522)

Repost from the Official Website of Alliance of Concerned Teachers Party.

Survey of Conditions of Deaf People in Metro Manila (Part 1)

This is an excerpt of Policy Notes entitled “Looking at conditions of persons with disability in Metro Manila” by Celia M. Reyes and Aubrey D. Tabuga of Surian sa mga Pag-aaral Pangkaunlaran ng Pilipinas (Philippine Institute for Development Studies) ISSN 1656-5266 No. 2009-09 (December 2009). The Policy Notes are observations/ analyses written by PIDS researchers on certain policy issues. The treatise is holistic in approach and aims to provide useful inputs for decision making. The authors are Senior Research Fellow and Supervising Research Specialist, respectively, at the Institute. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of PIDS or any of the study’s sponsors. I only selected the part which involves the deaf people and their community within Metro Manila, the Philippines’ capital.

The need to understand the conditions of persons with disability (PWD) is not only linked with the country’s aim to reduce poverty and adhere to the goals stated in the 2000 Millennium Declaration but also and, more importantly, with the goal to improve the lives of PWDs in the long run. Persons with disability often belong to the poorest segments of the population as noted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP). Because of disability, the opportunities faced by PWDs are often far more limited than those by non-PWDs.

In the Philippines, efforts to help PWDs were renewed via the amended Magna Carta for PWDs (Republic Act 9442) passed in April 2007. This legislation aims to fully integrate differently abled persons into the mainstream of Philippine society.

Studies that examine the conditions of PWDs have, however, been very limited, with only case studies being available and with statistics being very rare. In fact, the latest official estimate available on the number of PWDs in the country can be obtained from the 2000 Census, with the figure placed at 1.2 percent of the total population or 942,098.1 This is 305,098 greater than the 1990 estimate and around 23,000 more compared to the 1995.

Here are some important key factors:

  1. Several other entities have also estimated the number of PWDs in the country. The Department of Health conducted a registration of PWDs in 1997 and counted 469,707 PWDs, a number that was claimed to be an underestimation of the number of PWDs in the country. Thus, the government does not officially recognize this estimate.
  2. Apart from these estimates, however, there are very scanty pieces of information about the PWDs. Even the latest census, the 2007 Census of Population, does not have information on PWDs because this variable, for some reasons, has been dropped from the questionnaire.
  3. This lack of information on the conditions of PWDs becomes a problem in coming up with appropriate programs for them. In response to this, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) collaborated in August 2008 with the Institute of Developing Economies (IDE) of Japan, a semigovernmental research institute working for international cooperation between developing countries and Japan, to undertake a survey on PWDs in Metro Manila.
  4. The survey covered four Metro Manila cities, namely, Makati, Pasay, Valenzuela, and Quezon City, and was conducted in partnership with the Social Welfare Office of each of these cities and various PWD organizations.
  5. The objective of the survey was to gather the socioeconomic profile and livelihood sources of PWDs as well as their access to programs and awareness of existing government policies aimed at improving their living conditions.
  6. This Policy Note presents and assesses the key findings of this groundbreaking survey on PWDs. By profiling the PWDs, it is hoped that the government and other stakeholders will be equipped with the necessary information on how best to help them improve their well-being.

There were more than 400 respondents included in the survey whose types of disability were visual, mobility, and hearing impairments. There were also a few who had multiple impairments.

In the survey, there were more male (62%) than female respondents (38%). Because the focus of the survey was on livelihood, the respondents included adults aged 15 years old and above.

The discussions that follow briefly summarize the key findings of the survey.

In the census, the respondent is asked if a household member has any disability. The definition of disability adopted in the census refers to “any restriction or lack of ability (resulting from impairment) to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being. Impairments associated with disabilities may be physical, mental or sensory motor impairment such as partial or total blindness and deafness, muteness, speech defect, orthopedic handicaps, and mental retardation.”

Survey on Hearing Impairments as compared to other disabilities indicates that: (emphasis mine)

  1. Majority of the hearing-impaired respondents were born deaf. The rest, meanwhile, became deaf before they reached the age of three.
  2. In terms of the degree of deafness, majority are totally deaf in both ears.
  3. The deaf respondents were more knowledgeable in the English language than in Filipino. Sixty three percent of them can actually write in English while only 16 percent can in Tagalog or Filipino.
  4. Less than half of them (45%) indicated that they did not know both spoken and written Filipino/Tagalog while only 13 percent did not understand written or spoken English. Fortunately, majority of them could communicate in Philippine sign language.
  5. The average educational attainment of PWDs is low. Only a third of the respondents have reached or completed high school level. About one-fourth of them have also either reached or finished college education. Another one-fourth, on the other hand, have only gone as far as elementary level (24%) while 8 percent did not even complete any grade. Those with mobility impairment had the highest average number of years of schooling while those with hearing impairment had the lowest.
  6. Men tended to have higher average years of schooling compared to women.
  7. About a third of the PWDs had Special Education, with about three-fourths (74%) among those with hearing impairment having had it while only a third of the visually impaired had it. Meanwhile, only 1 percent of the mobility-impaired took it.
  8. The PWDs have a low employment rate. Only half of the respondents had income-generating jobs and half were looking for jobs. A greater proportion of men (57%) had jobs compared to women (40%). The visually impaired had the highest proportion with jobs (72%) followed by the mobility-impaired (44%) and the hearing impaired(32%).
  9. Among those with jobs, 24 percent of the hearing-impaired worked as aide, helper, or messenger; 15 percent were working in the construction industry as helper, carpenter, maintenance worker, painter, or laborer; another 12 percent worked as factory worker or supervisor while only 9 percent were employed in ICT-related jobs.
  10. Among the types of impairment, the mobility impaired had the largest percentage (at 30 percent) inclined toward some types of business. The visually impaired came next at 25 percent while the hearing-impaired had the lowest proportion at 16 percent. Among the business ventures that they were engaged in were stores, street vending, room/house renting, umbrella repair, water delivery, electronic repair, junk collection/shop, shirt printing/printing press, bird trading, and home-based food business.
  11. Major sources of income differed according to the types of impairment. The hearing-impaired obtained most of their income from money received from family and friends. The hearing impaired therefore can be considered as the least independent among the PWDs interviewed.
  12. The visually impaired PWDs have higher average incomes than the hearing-impaired and mobility impaired. The average income for the year of the visually impaired with jobs was P76,270 while it was P45,667 for the hearing-impaired and P55,681 for the mobility-impaired. Note that 69 percent of the mobility-impaired earned higher than the poverty threshold. Among the visually impaired, 65 percent of them did while among the hearing-impaired, only 44 percent earned higher than the poverty threshold.

More on this plus my analysis in part 2.

Cure for deafness soon a reality?

I got hold of this news article from BBC while I was doing some research on cochlear implants. This breakthrough technology is very promising. Although I may add this among my Christmas wish this December, I don’t think Santa Claus will grant me this one in the near future. Advanced Merry Christmas, everyone! 🙂

Stem Cell ‘deafness cure’ closer

Stem cells that could be used to restore hearing have been successfully created, scientists have said. A Sheffield University team took stem cells from foetuses and converted them into cells that behave like sensory hair cells in the human inner ear.

Their discovery could ultimately help those who have lost hair cells through noise damage and some people born with inherited hearing problems.

But any cure is still some years away, experts told the journal Stem Cell. The Sheffield team is now working on the next stage of the research to check if the cells can restore hearing.

This research is incredibly promising and opens up exciting possibilities
Dr Ralph Holme, RNID. Currently, hair cell damage is irreversible and causes hearing problems in some 10% of people worldwide.

Embryonic stem cells could change this because they have the unique ability to become any kind of human cell. Not only could they be used to replace the lost hair cells, but also any damaged nerve cells along which the signals generated by the hair cells are transmitted to the brain.

But the use of stem cells is controversial – opponents object on the grounds that it is unethical to destroy embryos in the name of science.
Lead researcher Dr Marcelo Rivolta, said: “The potential of stem cells is very exciting. We have now an experimental system to study genes and drugs in a human context.

“Moreover, these cells would help us to develop the technologies needed to deliver them into damaged tissues, such as the cochlea, in order to restore the different cell types.

“This should facilitate the development of a stem cell treatment for deafness.” Dr Ralph Holme, director of biomedical research at RNID, said: “Stem cell therapy for hearing loss is still some years away but this research is incredibly promising and opens up exciting possibilities by bringing us closer to restoring hearing in the future.”

Vivienne Michael of Deafness Research UK said: “This study highlights the importance of stem cell research. “In addition to the future potential for restoring hearing with stem cell therapy, the recent research success means that we may now have better ways to test the efficacy and toxicity of new drugs on auditory cells.”

Professor David McAlpine, director of the Ear Institute, University College London, said: “Is this the ultimate upgrade for the iPod generation?

“The possibility of regenerating the sensory cells of the inner ear, so easily damaged by exposure to loud sound, has just moved a step closer. “If scientists can find out ways to deliver new cells to the inner ear, and wire them up correctly, then “plug and play” hearing could be the future.”

Photo and article are copied from BBC Website.

Marlee Matlin’s Scream

Marlee's Book, Photo taken from Jamie Berke's Site
Photo taken from Jamie Berke's Site

International Deaf Icon Marlee Matlin has recently published her autobiography “I’ll Scream Later”. She also guested at CNN’s Larry King Live which I failed to watch. (sigh)

Her book’s revelations about dealing with drug addiction at age 21 while receiving news of her Oscar nomination at the Betty Ford Center and being abused by her ex-lover and former “Children of a Lesser God” co-star William Hurt were shocking news. Mr. King threw two questions at her. One was about the reason why she wants to scream and the other was of course her turbulent and hurtful relationship with Mr. Hurt.

If I were also given a chance to ask her two questions, what would I tell her? Well, the first one is, “If Ms. Helen Keller has an Anne Sullivan, does Ms. Marlee Matlin have one?” I have always wondered at how she was able to “hear” and understand the hearing world. Keller was blessed by having Ms. Sullivan as her faithful mentor and best friend. She was both the eyes and ears of Helen. Was there a similar guiding angel in Ms. Matlin’s life?

My second question would be a bit controversial. “If a mother of a deaf child asks her advice on cochlear implants, what would she tell her?
I read from Brainyquote.com where Marlee said,

If I were offered a cochlear implant today, I would prefer not to have one. But that’s not a statement about hearing aids or cochlear implants. It’s about who you are.

I believe she has nothing against CIs. But if in the near future where technology became so advanced and almost a miracle that a profound deaf person can hear clearly, what would be her stand?

My first blog about Ms. Marlee Matlin in October last year became an instant hit. It was my all time top post generating more than 2,000 unique views. She has been my favorite and has always used her life as a role model for my deaf students.

Oh, how I wish someone would send me a complimentary copy of her book… I’m pretty sure it won’t be available in local bookshops here in the Philippines. I’ll add it on my wish list on top of my wish for her to visit the Philippines someday.

If Ms. Heather Whitestone was able to come to Manila and performed in front of the Filipino audience, why not Ms. Marlee Matlin? She would surely be a hit here. I was Ms. Whitestone’s sign language interpreter during her week-long stint in the country. It would also be a great honor and a dream come true if I would interpret for Ms. Matlin. I would then get a chance to personally ask those questions to her. 🙂

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