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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Cebu Pacific Airlines, the Filipino Deaf and Me

Me giving the lecture
My Presentation about “Deaf and Travel Sensitivity Seminar”.

Last Wednesday (January 21), I was one of the invited resource speakers of Cebu Pacific Airlines. I have never imagined that I would be doing it! You see, I did many blog posts highlighting their blunders and blatant disregard about the welfare of Persons With Disabilities most especially the Filipino Deaf.

"Nothing about us without us". So I invited my uber-talented deaf protege Moises Libot to be my tandem.
“Nothing about us without us”. So I invited my uber-talented deaf protege Moises Libot to be my tandem.

To refresh everyone’s memory, I made my first blog post about them in April of 2008 when

“Cebu Pacific Airlines refused to board ten deaf passengers on a flight to the world renowned Boracay Island. All ten were already seated inside the plane, when the crew told them to disembark, citing their policy that blind and deaf passengers had to be properly accompanied in order to be treated as regular passengers. If unaccompanied, “he/she may be accepted for carriage provided he/she can take care of himself/herself on the ground and in-flight.”

You may read the entire post here.

Then I made a series of posts about Cebu Pacific’s blatant disrespect on the rights of those with physical impairments here, here and here. Former Senator now Secretary of Department of Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas made a letter seeking for inquiry about this matter. Other bloggers even picked up this incident by creating a stir within the community. I also made a post analysis about considering deaf people as flight risk .

In fairness to the company, they already made policy changes addressing the incident even months after the said incident. But this has been done after the case was filed by the PWD groups. I have no update about the status of the case. Their Guest Services Officer Mr. Ivan Gaw made a reply about this situation. It’s a pity I wasn’t able to meet him during my talk. The participants informed me that he attended the first day seminar.

programwithfront
Program content and front cover where my name was included as one of the speakers.

Seven years later, I haven’t heard any more discrimination incidents. I guess the company has learned its lesson and really made many concrete changes regarding fair treatment for all passengers especially those with special needs.

When the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) invited me to handle the sensitivity seminar for the deaf, flashbacks of those old wounds again went back to my mind. During those days, I was really hoping that the company would invite me to explain to them the needs of deaf people. But sadly I wasn’t given the opportunity…. until now.

Entitled “Demo-Workshop on Handling Persons With Disabilities who Travel”, I was one of those chosen by NCDA to give a lecture about the deaf sector. They also had speakers for persons who are orthopedically impaired, visually impaired and those with intellectual disability. The participants were a good mix of supervisors, officers and policy makers.

When asked about the urgency in conducting the seminar, one of them replied that this was part of the company’s fulfillment of international requirement for their long-haul flights especially in the US where they will be servicing for the first time.

Part of my lecture was discussion about the challenges of deaf travelers which are:

  • Deaf people can’t hear announcements and emergency or special attentions.
  • Deaf people can’t make telephone call reservations or follow ups.
  • Most airline TV monitors and on-board screens don’t have captions or inset interpreting.

Now, how do the deaf people handle these obstacles? Here is what I said:

  • Deaf people can travel without a sign language interpreter!
  • Deaf people can read!
  • Deaf people can communicate through writing.
  • Deaf people are very sensitive to other people’s body movements and gestures.

In other words, “Deaf people can survive all by themselves!!!!”

I even gave them my wish list of having inset sign language interpreter explaining their safety procedures. In their part, they said that most Cebu Pacific fleets are smaller crafts and don’t have monitors. However, they are considering my suggestions once they acquire air crafts with on-board screens.

wishlist
My wish list of Airline Safety Procedure explained in sign language.

 

I believe that conducting sensitivity seminars like this is step in the right direction. However, what I want for the company to do is to embrace a culture change and not just to comply with international requirements. That way every in-flight service crew, airline pilots and even those who prepare the on-board meals would always consider the needs of everyone including those with physical disabilities. 🙂

Philippine Revolution with Deaf Actors

MCCID College students led by Thenejon Del Mundo and directed by Sir Moises Libot made a simple 6-minute video (with background sounds) about the heroes of Philippine Revolution. This is part of their Digital Video Editing Subject.  Film shooting was done at the hillside area of the campus. Enjoy! 🙂

What Filipino Sign Language is NOT… a short video explanation

With the recent fuzz about Filipino Sign Language and the debate whether to support House Bill 6079 (Filipino Sign Language Act of 2012) or not, let us first have an open mind, understand what this language is and how it will empower the Filipino Deaf. We hearing people have been dominating deaf education since 1907. It’s high time that we let the Filipino Deaf people decide for themselves on what language to use in teaching them.

Here is a short video explaining what FSL is NOT. Peace! 🙂

Ninja Deaf (in Sign Language)

This is the Final exam entry of MCCID Deaf Students’ Moises Libot and John Michael Caluya in their Adobe After Effects subject which earned them Best Video, Best in Special Effects, Best Director and Best Actress Awards in the Deaf Video Fest 2012 held at MCCID Hall last April 3, 2012. Enjoy! 🙂

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