Is Signing Exact English the way to go for Filipino Deaf Education?

I got hold of an official letter of Deaf Advocate Jose Sales to Dr. Patricia Licuana, Chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education. It’s about his reaction regarding the ruling of the Department of Education (DepED)officially “declaring Signing Exact English as the official language to be used in deaf education.” Here is the complete letter:

July 22, 2011

Dr. Patricia B. Licuana, Ph.d
Chairperson, CHED
U.P. Diliman, Quezon City

Dear Dr. Licuana,


Does DepED properly aware of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) including their rights to proper education? UNCRPD clearly states that:

– UNCRPD article 3.h respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities
– UNCRPD art. 24.3.b Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the Deaf community.
– UNCRPD art. 24.3.c Ensuring that the education of persons and in particular children, who are blind, deaf or deafblind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual and in the environments which maximize academic and social development.

It is really against the Deaf rights as mentioned above and DepED’s ignorance of the UNCRPD.

You can’t force a Deaf children to learn in a way hearing people do because of their inability to hear. They should be taught in a manner that they could easily understand. You can’t also force them to speak if they could hardly hear anything to emulate. It is the SPED instructors/educators to adapt to the Deaf’s needs so that Deaf children/student could learn easily and conveniently. SPED instructors/educators should be properly educated and trained to effectively teach Deaf children/students.

It is a shame to hear from majority of Deaf who finished schooling that they only learned at below average – one of their main reason is the laxity and inexperienced of their teachers/educators to teach them effectively especially in FSL signing. Teachers usually give them seat work always in the excuse that they already “tired” signing SEE .

One example that I observed in our church in the presence of Deaf people with interpreter in front, the DEAF tends to become sleepy because of the interpreter’s “boring” SEE signing. But when an interpreter who are skilled in FSL signing is assigned, the Deaf people become attentive and could easily understand the message from preacher. This is what I also experienced myself as I am a Deaf and also one in the group.

I appreciate that future meetings of DepED of this nature must be transparent and adhere to the provisions of UNCRPD, Magna Carta for PWDs and others . May I also suggests that PFD and PDRC and other movers for effective Deaf education be included in meetings and discussions of this nature as mentioned in DepED PWD’s Education Provision Guidelines 2.3.1 which states that qualified PWDs should participate and/or be consulted in the planning and formulation stages of policies and programs.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely yours,

Jose E. Sales
“Because there is (also) life after Deaf”
President – Metrowide Org. of the Deaf (MODE)
Outgoing Exec. Board – Phil. Federation of the Deaf (PFD)
Staff and member of Katipunan ng Maykapansanan sa Pilipinas (KAMPI)
Deaf Preacher – Word of Hope Church – Deaf Ministry

This is not good… not so good at all! Hearing people have been manipulating deaf education since the establishment of Philippine School for the Deaf in 1907, more than a century ago! Look what they’ve accomplished! Now, even if we are already bounded by UNCRPD, they are still defiant and want to do things on their own without consulting the deaf. This is truly sickening. 😦


“Deaf” or “Hearing Impaired”?

I was very blessed this January for having travelled to different places in the country that I have never been in my entire life. And those places are not just places, but “the places” to be during this time of the year. Imagine going to Kalibo, Aklan to celebrate the “Ati Atihan” street festival and in Iloilo City for their “Dinagyang” festival. To top it off, we went to the world famous white-sand beach of “Boracay“! 🙂

All of these great trips weren’t possible if not for the invitation from Liliane Foundation Philippines. We had our first taste of the new system that they will be implementing for all of their partner-organizations. They had their opening salvo for the Visayas mediators and organizations that serve persons with disabilities.

Liliane Foundation Philippines
Liliane Foundation Philippines

During the group discussions, most of the members label their clients as visually impaired, orthopedically impaired or ortho, autistic, mentally impaired and hearing impaired. Probably that is what they were brought up to tag the children they assist. When one of the participants from West Visayas requested me to assist their “Hearing Impaired” constituents for their IT training, I can’t help but feel surprised that they still call them as such.

Sir Ervin explains about deaf and MCCID.
The same thing happened during the interview in one of the daytime TV programs here in Manila last Monday.*  The first question asked by the host was, “How do we call you, deaf or hearing impaired?” Luckily, they invited prominent deaf people like Indie Film Actor Romalito Mallari and IT Expert Ervin Reyes. They both replied that they are more comfortable being called Deaf.

Now, how do we really call them, Deaf or Hearing Impaired?

I tried to google to get the answer. I got quite a few hits and video blogs like Jackseyes and DSQ89. Often they combine or interchange the two words. So I wasn’t able to get the right answer.

Although each country has its own legislations and policies regarding persons with disabilities, we must consider getting the answer from an accepted international treaty, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (UN-CRPD). This law was ratified by the Philippines in 2008. Policies, future laws and bills that are filed must be anchored from the UN-CRPD which is fundamentally the rights based approached.

If you scan UN-CRPD, it never mentioned the word “Hearing Impaired”. It used sensory impairments in Article 1. Sign language and interpreter words appeared in Article 2, Article 9, Article 21 which seek to promote it. Article 30 also included the respect of deaf culture. Deaf, deaf community and deaf/blind was mentioned in Article 24 thrice.

Article 24 – Education explicitly states that:

b) Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community;

Based on these, I can safely say that the the word DEAF is the politically correct and rights based approach in calling them. Besides, “hearing impaired” focused on the impairment while “Deaf” focused on the person. 🙂

* – “Full Time Moms”, hosted by Suzie Abrera and Regine Tolentino aired at QTV-11

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 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.

Worldwide appeal for Pres. Obama to do what he promised

So, there is a global email-writing campaign among Deaf people and people with disabilities to President Barack Obama. That’s cool! I know he promised many things from the moon to your kitchen sink. And every move he does whether it’s good or bad, affects everybody worldwide. The world will be closely watching his every move and expects a whole lot from him.

After reading a comment from Ms. Andrea Shettle of ReunifyGally, I am convinced that we must always remind the incoming president about his campaign promises. We must let him know that our American brothers and sisters, most especially those who have physical disabilities must not be neglected. And people from every nation must be vigilant in protecting our own interests with which the United States should respect and uphold.

In his official website, Pres. Obama details his promises for disabled people as follows:

  • Provide Americans with disabilities with the educational opportunities they need to succeed;
  • End discrimination and promote equal opportunity;
  • Increase the employment rate of workers with disabilities;
  • Support independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities.

Although these promises are basically motherhood statements, these must be backed up by concrete and specific action plans in order to implement them. And all these statements are explicitly stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD). There were already 41 countries that ratified the convention which our country, the Philippines was the 28th. The law has been adopted by the UN last December of 2006, almost two years ago. I was very much surprised that USA hasn’t done so, not even one of those that signed.

With this seemingly laggard stance of the most powerful country in the world and supposedly the role model of democracy and equal rights, the United States must act swiftly in order to reclaim their global leadership in this issue. Once the US ratifies it, it may help encourage other countries to ratify the CRPD. This could have important implications for the status of Deaf human rights and the human rights of people with disabilities generally.

Ms. Shettle states:

Deaf people and people with disabilities from across the United States and around the world have been sending emails to Obama to congratulate him; to thank him for including a mention of people with disabilities in his election night speech; and, most importantly, to remind him of his campaign promises.

These emails can be an important way of making sure that Obama’s team is well aware that people around the world are watching what Obama does next to live up to his promises to Deaf people and people with disabilities. More information about how and why to send emails to Obama is in a slideshow program that you can watch at

So to my worldwide readers, let’s unite and email Pres. Obama c/o Ms. Kareem Dale and Ms. Anne Hayes ( AND between now and inauguration day. Both Kareem Dale and others who have worked on disability issues within the Obama campaign are ready to receive your emails on disability-related issues for US President-elect Obama. Emails are welcome from across the United States and around the world. If you are a US citizen, then please say so in your email.

PS: Sorry Andrea, pasting your slide show program doesn’t work in this WordPress blog. 😦

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