My 3rd Mini-web design conference experience: Exposing them to the Deaf World

Attendees of 3rd mini-conference pose in front of CIIT board.
The Philippine Web Designers Organization (PWEDO), a newly formed group composed of highly dedicated bunch of web designers and experts once again had its mini-web design conference last January 22. I believe this is by far the most successful one in terms of attendance (more than 40 persons were there although around 70 signed up), venue (Cosmopoint International Institute of Technology has a bigger capacity and half of the participants are in front of the PCs) and of course the speakers. Some attendees even came all the way from Pampanga. It’s a bar camp style where anybody can speak and react comfortably with the speakers. On top of that, it’s FREE with free pizza and soft drinks courtesy of CIIT! πŸ™‚

Although it started an hour late, I believe it was worth the wait. Six speakers took turns in presenting in that order.

  1. Jan Pabellon – Starting out with Concrete5 CMS
  2. Alfredo Palconit – SEO and Web Design
  3. Regnard Raquedan – Pricing Your Web Design Work
  4. Yours truly – How to Write a Good ALT Text
  5. JP dela Torre – Overview on front-end optimization and best practices
  6. Eugene Alvin Villar – TextPattern

Me lecturing about how to write a good alt text
Aside from the fact that they were all fantastic speakers, I won’t delve much about the event because it was already elaborately mentioned by Ia, Regnard, Jan, JP and Shari. Mia even made a cool visual summary of the event which she called sketch notes. You may want to download their presentations here.

What I want to blog about is how I slowly introduced the “techie” hearing crowd to the exciting world of the deaf. I was with my ever loyal deaf brother Ervin Reyes and a graduating student in our school Jerome Marzan. Ervin was with me during the first mini-conference at G2VC. On the second conference, I requested Jerome to join us. This time, all three of us attended. Other members of the Philippine Web Accessibility Group like Rene Orense and Charles Julius Serrano from a computer school for the blind named ATRIEV were also present.

Since my topic is about proper use of ALT text, I can easily promote accessibility issues for the visually impaired. However, it’s the concerns of deaf people whom I’m having difficulty inserting into my talk. You see, the only significant accessibility issue applied for the deaf is the use (or non-use) of closed captions on videos posted on the Internet. So how can I make them feel the presence of the deaf in the audience?

Solution? Sign language. I may not be standing there in front interpreting but people certainly notice me signing for my deaf companions while seated beside them. Also, during the “introduce yourself” part, I specifically instructed them to sign to the audience while I voice them. That way, the crowd can see their hands that seemed aimlessly swinging back and forth has a corresponding English term. A quick glance and I saw some of their faces looking perplexed and awed at the same time.

During the break, as I was busy preparing for my presentation, the ever bubbly and friendly emcee Sarah approached me. She sought my help regarding the two deaf who were with me. She wants to ask them to come inside the lecture room because the session will resume shortly. But she was at quandary as to how to approach them. I simply told her not to worry, just call them and do some hand gestures motioning them to come inside. They would definitely understand it. She just nodded with a smile. I’m not sure if she did what I told her because I was too focused with my work at hand. πŸ™‚

Before I started with my short lecture, I introduced some members of PWAG who were there. I especially mentioned Jerome and of course, Ervin. I told the audience that he is a computer instructor for the deaf and a very skilled web designer. I even boasted that he won in the web design competition here in the Philippines and represented the country in the international skills competition in India in 2003 where he won the bronze medal. He received a cash prize of Php 100,000 from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Oohhs and ahhs were heard from the audience and a rousing applause followed. Ervin might not hear the claps but he certainly felt it.

Presentation page where I used Obama's 1-4-3 sign as example

On my talk proper, I don’t know where I can insert sign language. So I decided to use a relevant one, the one where President Barack Obama signed 1-4-3 to the crowd. I added it as one of my examples on proper use of ALT text. I even taught them how to sign I-Love-You. They all copied my hand sign.

I felt guilty when my talk went overtime from the alloted 15 minutes. That’s because quite a number of them asked questions and I had a lively pop quiz. Mae, the designated timekeeper, showed me her laptop indicating that I only have two minutes left even if I’m not even half of my lecture.

However, based on the responses I heard from participants who approached me after the event, I felt relieved because they all loved my lecture. Some of them were very happy that they received the “Basic Web Accessibility Guide for Filipinos” book as prize and congratulated me. They said they learned a lot from me. There was another guy who asked me how he can help with my cause. I gave him our school’s web address and made a brief explanation about our advocacy. πŸ™‚

Yay! First 30,000 Visits!

Yehey! My first 30,000 visitors! Congratulations to me again! hehehe

In my similar post, I said that I will congratulate myself every 5,000 visits. So after more than a month (December 22), and nine posts later, I achieved this feat. My most read post is still about Heather and Marlee. Since I made this blog in October, it has already attracted nearly a thousand visitors.

Aside from reaching that many visitors, another significant milestone that I want to mention is my Google PageRank upgrade from 3 to 4. That to me means Google increasingly believes in the credibility of my blog, ergo, an improved ranking. πŸ™‚

Visitors from my own country slightly increased to 29% by 2 points. However my American readers are dwindling to 52% from a high of 70% when I started blogging. It’s interesting to note that despite its local article, it has a worldwide appeal.

I have also changed my WordPress theme to 2813 by Eli, Neil, and Paul. This is currently the only available blog theme provided freely by wordpress.com that has three columns with the main blog posts appearing on the first column. It’s really necessary to make this switch because some of my visually impaired readers were unable to immediately read my article. In my previous theme, they have to press the tab key multiple times in order to reach my post.

On to my next 35,000 visits! πŸ™‚

DepEd to strengthen Special Education

After reading this news article posted in People’s Journal Online Edition today, I felt it’s good to put it in my blog as a living proof that the Department of Education has promised not to neglect the special education programs.

Hearing impairment is one of those disabilities that form part of the special education system. This means that the deaf youth are entitled as much in education as other children. I personally laud the efforts made by our current DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus. I’m sure he also has some support in store for the deaf group. I notice this because in the news, he only mentioned the braille textbooks to be given to the visually impaired.

Sad to say, support for special education centers rest fully on the whims of the local government units. This means, if the mayor has a heart for the children with special needs, then he will pour out funds for it. But if not, then, it’s “look for your own support or we will shut you down.” dilemma.

I know of one particular case. During our school orientation with the parents of our deaf students, one mother informed me that she had to enroll her daughter all the way to Quezon City even if they live in Marikina City. She said that before there was a SPED center there. But their current mayor shut it down and stopped admitting deaf children. When they inquired why, a representative from DepEd told them that they would be “wasting their resources just to accommodate a few“. They added that they would rather use the classrooms for 50 students than to be used by four or five deaf or other students with physical disabilities. This considering that Marikina City is a first class, highly urbanized, one of the highest tax revenue collection in the country. Yet out of 17 public elementary and 9 public high schools, none of them offer special education. That’s sad, very sad.

In contrast, Quezon City boasts of caring for all of its constituents. SPED centers sprout almost yearly. The city government issued circular memo to all principals NOT to turn down a child from enrolling, even if he/she is differently-abled. Quezon City is the largest city in terms of population, land area and tax collection. Aside from that, most private organizations and special educational institutions are in Quezon city including our school for the deaf. No wonder the city receives so many blessings and attained remarkable achievements.

Here is the excerpt of the news article:

THE Department of Education announced it has strengthened its Special Education programs to cater to children who have special learning needs.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said the undertaking is in connection with the observance of Autism Consciousness Week spearheaded by DepEd and Autism Society of the Philippines to raise public awareness on and provide the learning environment for children with special needs.

The move was also in line with DepEd’s thrust to provide education for all and access to public education services particularly parents who cannot afford to send their children to private schools that accommodate kids with special abilities.

DepEd under its wing has 217 SPED Centers that cater to the needs of children with special abilities. The department issues Braille textbooks to help especially visually impaired children.

DepEd said it will join ASP and the National Council for Disability Affairs (formerly known as National Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons) in the celebration.

Cebu Pacific Replies

Here is the response from the Cebu Pacific Guest Services Head Mr. Ivan Gaw from the letter sent by Sen. Mar Roxas through Blogger Kevin Ray:

Dear Mr Kevin Ray Chua,

Greetings from Cebu Pacific!

Ms Rosita Menchaca, VP of Passenger Service of Cebu Pacific Air, endorsed to me the letter form Atty Blas James Viterbo of the office of our good Senator Mr. Mar Roxas, which was sent to her last 06Jan09 pertaining to the 10 deaf passengers which were bumped off for their Caticlan-Manila route.

Before, Cebu Pacific only accepts 2 unescorted passengers that requires special handling per flight. Passengers that required special handling includes expectant mothers, people with disabilities, medical cases, unaccompanied minor and the likes that whose physical, medical, or mental condition requires individual attention and/or equivalent not normally extended to other passengers during or when embarking, in-flight, in emergency evacuation, and ground handling at the airports.

During that time, the 10 deaf passengers including 1 companion were bumped off because of this ruling which we practiced before. We follow that previous procedure primarily because of the safety of all of our passengers including theirs which is our airline’s top priority.

This incident had been an eye opener also for our company. With this incident, we revised our procedures for carriage of Deaf passengers and still not compromising safety. Since July 2008, Cebu Pacific accepts unlimited number of unescorted Deaf/ Mute guests in all of our aircrafts provided that they shall be properly briefed by our Cabin Attendants about safety, the use of seatbelt, oxygen mask, life vest, route to the nearest exit, etc. The only condition is that they must not be seated at any emergency exit rows.

I am seeking for your help if it is possible for you to forward to me the record locator of their booking. All the tickets of the affected guests were refunded but applicable penalties were collected. Actually, Sir Lance (Gokongwei) already gave an approval for full refund of their tickets problem was the system limitation of our Revenue Accounting when they processed the said refund. They erroneously collected the penalties. If you can forward to me their record locator or ticket numbers, we can dig the files and return to them the penalties collected.

I’m also happy to inform you that we are coordinating with the group of Sir Nonoy Concha and party for an awareness seminar about proper handling of passengers with disabilities. We are targeting mid-February. We also would want to include our learning’s from this awareness seminar to the front line training program. I am constantly in loop with them.

Rest assured that it’s not the intention of Cebu Pacific to discriminate anybody. We value all of our guest irregardless of gender, status, and condition.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,
Ivan Gaw
Guest Services
Cebu Pacific Airlines

To Cebu Pacific, thank you very much for your speedy reply (almost two weeks) and for making some policy changes. Let’s hope that no more incidents like the previous ones will ever happen again. To Kevin Ray, thank you for helping us. Things like this must be recognized. πŸ™‚

Ika nga ni Sir Lauro Purcil, ang aking idol at pinagpipitaganan kong PWD power advocate,

We all are citizens, consumers and service-subjects, and in this context we hope that Cebu Pacific would see the logic and the positive effects of our becoming a vigilant sector. We shall be meticulous (napakakulit) and will for duty and responsibility sake strictly demand global quality public services from government and the business sectors. No less than but quality, prompt, honest and sincere services we must demand. All services now are right
based in terms of quality standard.

Mabuhay ang sektor ng May Kapansanan! πŸ™‚

What’s in a Sign Name?

A few hours from now, the American nation will be witnessing a historic event. The most powerful nation in the world will inaugurate its first African-American president in history, Barack Obama. Most of the news articles on DeafRead are related to that momentous event. The most popular blog post happens to be the sign name the American Deaf community assigned to their newest president.

I got very curious so I immediately viewed the video post. It was kinda cool and the explanation on how Kirsi Grigg (Deaf lady) arrived to that sign name was pretty unambiguous. She said that having a sign name is very important for the deaf community. Deaf parents give much thought in giving a name that is significant for everybody.

President Arroyo (Notice her left mole?)
President Arroyo (Notice her left mole?)

Filipino Deaf community also value their sign names. It’s easier to refer a person through their sign names instead of fingerspelling every letter. It also makes them feel proud about their culture and being identified into a community. Hearing people associated with the deaf must also have their own sign names. However, it’s better for the deaf to assign a sign name to the hearing person instead of inventing his own. Deaf people are more creative. Your sign names will be much striking and easier to remember if you are “baptized” by a deaf.

When I started associating with the deaf in 1991, I still wear those dorky eyeglasses that keep on falling from my oily nose. I often use my nickname instead of my real name because I’m a junior. My Dad and I have the same name. Since my Dad is also involved with the deaf through me, I decided to use my moniker instead. I’m Jojo Esposa, so my deaf friend Christened me as “sign J-E near right eye corner.” I was stuck with that until now.

President Estrada (Notice his wristband?)
President Estrada (Notice his wristband?)

Our current Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was given a sign name of “index G hand points to cheek“. This was because of the noticeable mole on her left cheek. Former President Joseph Estrada (1996-2001) has a sign name of “E slicing left wrist“. It was due to his signature wristband. When I first interpreted for the deaf in a congregation, the president then was Fidel Ramos (1991-1996). Since he always sport an unlit tobacco on his mouth, the deaf gave him a sign name of “thumb R near mouth” like holding a cigar.

President Ramos (Notice his hand holding a cigar?)
President Ramos (Notice his hand holding a cigar?)

The Philippine Federation for the Deaf assigned unique Filipino Sign Language (FSL) signs to their deaf colleagues. I said unique because it doesn’t use the first letters of their names. They argued that using the old style of assigning sign names often confuse them with somebody else. So they give signs based on their observations about the deaf’s common gestures, behaviors or even mannerisms. As an example, their President Rack Corpuz was given a sign name “claw hand face down twists clockwise” like turning a person’s head to face you. They gave that sign to her because she always signs that whenever she wants to catch her audience’s attention and to focus more on her.

I may not agree with that method. But who am I to contradict? So long as they understand each other, that’s good enough reason for me. πŸ™‚

PS: I am using a code system to refer to a sign. I hope you understand how to execute my sign codes. πŸ™‚