Uncounted Casualties

Guys, please read this very straight-forward and informative column Mr. Roberto S. Salva, the executive director of the Catholic Ministry to Deaf People. He talks about the difficulty in raising awareness on the plight of Persons With Disabilities most specifically the Deaf community.

Here is an excerpt:

Since the start of national TV coverage, deaf Filipinos have been left as non-participants in nation-building, with relevant and timely information generally inaccessible to them. Imagine not having access to TV news all your life—and that is what the deaf have experienced for over 50 years. This exclusion of the deaf is one of the reasons why the group’s literacy rate has faltered behind the non-deaf’s. Yes, literacy can be achieved through the idiot box.

To read the entire content, please go to this inquirer.net link. To support our advocacy, please go to this link or visit this website to sign up. 🙂

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Have you forgotten about us?

This is a repost from the Philippine Daily Inquirer written by Roberto S. Salva. He is the executive director of the Catholic Ministry to Deaf People Inc. Contact him at babisalva@gmail.com. You may view the entire article here.

A reminder
By Roberto S. Salva

LAST MONTH, in a forum on human rights organized by the Australian Embassy and the Commission on Human Rights, one of the deaf invitees posed this question to panel presenters: “Have you forgotten about us?”

By “us” the deaf meant Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

The forum moderator shot the question down. She suggested that further questions should be confined to the topic of that particular panel discussion. The topic, the last of two, was on the challenges of prosecuting human rights cases. There were only eight minutes provided for this topic’s open forum. The earlier panel topic was on press freedom and the killing of journalists.

The deaf person who asked the question may have wondered why she was there at all since neither disability nor minority rights were part of the agenda. Among the presenters, only Catherine Branson, president of Australia’s Human Rights Commission, mentioned disability rights. She gave it equal importance with the human rights issues that were in discussion.

There is no doubt that the deaf person shared the nation’s concern over the relentless culture of impunity in the country. Disability, though, has never been a disturbing issue in the country. There are PWDs among us but we have for the meantime managed to put their concerns on hold and rendered their citizenship token attention. They are only a small group—merely 10 percent of our country’s population—of politically unorganized people. And we do not have the resources yet.

But the concerns of PWDs, some of which they brought to the forum, need to be genuine concerns of the country’s majority. The lack of resources does not diminish the rights of around 9 million Filipinos.

Indeed, development and human rights go hand in hand. Now, the lack of development is our excuse for our disregard of the rights of some groups like the PWDs. But, it is precisely this disregard of those rights that perpetuates our state of underdevelopment and further escalates poverty in the country.

We cannot expect, for example, that the almost 4 million children with disabilities not in school would eventually contribute positively to our nation’s growth. According to the Special Education Division of the Department of Education, barely 80,000 children with disabilities were enrolled during the school year 2004-2005. This is only 2 percent of the estimated total number of children with disabilities.

PWDs find it harder to share in the task of nation-building because the nation is still shut down to them. Government institutions, even hospitals, are still not accessible to wheelchair users. Television programs—even news programs—are still not accessible to the deaf.

The Commission on Elections during the recent elections denied the Filipino PWDs’ desire to be represented in Congress. They supposedly do not have a nationwide presence. The party-list law was created for groups like the PWDs. Ironically, before the enactment of the party-list law, PWDs as a sector were represented in Congress.

PWDs do not only find it hard to participate in the nation’s life, they are also not safe. Our police stations still cannot handle deaf persons who want to report a crime. Early this year, a 17-year-old deaf girl was abducted and raped by 10 men. She could not report directly to the police. She also could not file the case directly in court as the language of the court is not her language. True, these institutions can be approached, but not without considerable expense.

There are more PWD human rights concerns. That is why the United Nations came up with a special instrument in the form of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Philippines is a signatory to this. It has obligations. It should be obliged to keep these.

On Parenting, Acceptance and Education

I got hold of this touching story of a 17-year old deaf girl named Micaella while I was browsing Inquirer.net, my favorite online newspaper. The commentary came from Mr. Roberto Salva, executive director of Catholic Ministry to Deaf People (CMDP).

In May 2009, Micaella died of liver ailment, apparently due to the condition in the estero where she lived to get an education. She was one of the CMDP scholars. She died in order to get an education. Such a sorry state in our country’s educational system.

According to Salva, Micaella’s deafness caused her family to move from their hut in Bulacan to the estero beside the Divisoria mall – despite its unhealthy state – so she could be near a school for the deaf. Such was their love and hope for her.

When his father was interviewed by CMDP as part of their process in accepting scholars, he wrote,

“I have big dreams. I hope my two children will finish their studies and hopefully, in the future, we won’t be on the streets anymore.”

Micaella’s parents are unique among hearing Filipino parents of deaf children. They were not disabled by their child’s deafness.

A study was conducted by CMPD concerning the role of the hearing parents in rearing their deaf children. They initiated the study because they observed in families of their scholars the lack of expressed closeness between the deaf and their hearing parents, and the breakdown in communication.

According to the survey results of among 151 scholars in May 2007, around 81 percent of the household heads (and 77 percent of their spouses) could not pass the evaluation for Basic Sign Language. Fourteen percent of the household heads, mostly fathers, were not communicating with their deaf children at all, including 3 percent of the mothers.

Many organizations for the deaf like MCCID and CMDP, have responded to this dilemma by offering sign language classes to the parents. Although it is one step closer, learning the language is not enough for them to play an active role in their deaf children’s lives.

Continuing with their survey results, 30 percent of the parents expressed sadness when they discovered they had given birth to a deaf child. Twenty percent of the answers were questions, mostly expressing worries (15 percent) about the future of the deaf children – whether there is one. Thirteen percent articulated non-acceptance, 9 percent hurt, 5 percent fear, 4 percent disappointment, and 3 percent sense of loss.

However, as Salva pointed out, there are parents like Micaella’s who immediately get over their sense of distress and focus on what they can do to help their deaf child. They represent roughly 3 percent of the respondents. The others are able to hurdle their issues only gradually as they see their deaf children grow.

The parents’ acceptance of their deaf children, the calming of their worries, and their pro-active sense with regard to their response to the deafness of their children surface when they learn of the opportunity available to, or the ability of, their deaf children to get an education. Forty-one percent of the parents expressed that. They realized that, except for the inability to hear, their deaf children have the same capacity as hearing children.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to get education in the Philippines is not accessible to all deaf Filipinos. There are not many schools for the deaf in the country. We still have not even been able to correctly account for all the deaf children. This leads us to another question, how many deaf children are there in the Philippines anyway?

A deaf girl from Bohol, photo taken from Idea Deaf

Many of the hearing parents of deaf children are unaware of the educational opportunities for their deaf children and of the need of these children to learn a language, especially sign language, for their holistic development.

I am in unity with Mr. Salva in dreaming of a day when education is accessible to all Filipino children – with or without disability, deaf or hearing, of a minority or the majority, rich or poor.

We dream of a day when families like that of Micaella need not risk their lives along the creeks of our metropolis to be near a school for the deaf.

You may view the complete article here. The Catholic Ministry to Deaf People has been an active partner of MCCID in providing “Young Adult Health Education Program” for our deaf students since late 90s. They have also supported some of our students as part of their scholarship programs. I have blogged about their organization and their selfless endeavors here, here and here. Mabuhay po kayo! 🙂

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