Filipino Deaf’s First Automated Election Experience

Long lines at the corridor.

It has been a few weeks since we had our first automated election experience last May 10. Traces of indelible ink smudge are still in my left fingernail. All the senators and majority of the congressmen and other elected officials were already proclaimed by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). This by far is the fastest election we had since voting for our leaders began in the early 20s. I must say, despite the mud-throwing, killing, vote-buying and other election related anomalies that happened, still, this is the best thing that happened to my country.

Jerome Marzan, a deaf first time voter shading his ballot.

Now what about the Filipino deaf’s experience?

I won’t be delving into other disabled group, although I have seen some of them in my precinct as well as publicized in major TV networks. I will focus on my observation from the deaf’s perspective.

I was blessed to assist two deaf voters. The three of us who went to Immaculate Conception High School in Quezon City were: Deaf Ervin, who has been a registered voter since early nineties, and Deaf Jerome, a first time voter and me. Inasmuch as I want to help many deaf people, I can’t because of the distance between polling centers. However, I was able to monitor other deaf from my community the day after.

So at 9 in the morning, we walked all the way to the school which is adjacent to the Immaculate Conception Parish Church. Usually, public schools were used as election venue. But our barangay does not have a nearby government school, so the private school was tapped as a polling area.

The first thing we saw after entering the school was a long table booth on the side of the quadrangle which was teeming with people. The area was used to assist voters. There were also wheel-chaired people circling the place helping other PWDs on what to do. There were also a couple of bulletin boards where all the list of voters are stapled. Since we already verified our precinct numbers on the Internet courtesy of www.comelec.gov.ph, we scanned through the papers with ease.

Now, the calvary starts when we went to the precinct venue at the 3rd floor of the school building. What’s unique in this election is that precincts are now clustered. Before, each polling place can accommodate from 200-400 voters. But in an automated system, a precinct must accept at least 1,000 registered voters. You could just imagine each room where 500 or so people are falling in line. The corridors are full. The sun’s scorching heat sips through the rooms. People’s nerves would certainly flare up.

I first assisted Deaf Jerome because he needs to vote on a different precinct. His experience was a lot better than ours. When I called the attention of the election officials that he is deaf, the lady officer asks if he can read and write. I was appalled by the questioning. I murmured, is that how they perceive a deaf person? Someone who doesn’t know how to read and write?

She was very cordial to us so I smilingly replied to her that he is a college graduate so he can read and write by himself. Their polling place was more orderly than the rest. They gave numbers written on small paper to each voter. They then asked them to sit on the nearby empty room and wait for their numbers to be called. This is what they did to Deaf Jerome. But what’s special for him is that, they asked him to wait in front of the door because he will be called soon. That’s a relief!

So a few minutes later, he was escorted inside the precinct, gave his ballot while alerting the rest of the Election Officials about his situation. So within 10 minutes, he completed the ritual of casting his votes with no hitch.

Sir Ervin and the Precinct Count Optical Scanner Machine
Deaf Ervin and the Precinct Count Optical Scanning Machine.

Falling in line usually takes place within minutes. In our case, Deaf Ervin and I lined up at 9:30 AM. We were able to cast our votes at almost lunchtime, AFTER TWO HOURS! When it was our turn, I asked the officials that we go together because he is deaf and I need to assist him. After that, everything went smoothly.

In Retrospect
I heard from some of my deaf students that they were assisted by the members of their families. However, a great majority of them did not vote. Next time, I’ll strengthen my “Election Awareness Campaign” to my students. I would even impose some kind of a penalty to those who failed to register. I would also seek the cooperation of their parents by signing some sort of a commitment that they would assist their deaf child in exercising their rights.

Unless the newly elected president and vice president are not yet proclaimed as of today, the clouds of doubt about the veracity of automation would still envelop the whole country.

Overall, the actual election procedures did not pose any barriers against the deaf people. It’s the dissemination of information and of course, the concern and care from the family which counts the most. 🙂

PS:
Thank you very much to the election officials of Precinct No. 4518a and 4537a for your help. Mabuhay po kayo!

Philippine President Signed Program for Disabled Persons in Every Province, Cities and Municipalities

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has signed Republic Act 10070, a law establishing the institutional mechanism to ensure the implementation of programs and services for persons with disabilities (PWDs) in every province, city and municipality, as envisioned by RA 7277 or the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.

The law, signed last April 6, promotes the creation of organizations of PWDs in their respective territorial jurisdictions. National agencies and local government units may enter into joint ventures with organizations or associations of PWDs to explore livelihood opportunities and other undertakings that shall enhance the health, physical fitness and economic and social well-being of PWDs.

The law mandates the creation of Persons with Disability Affairs Office [PDAO] in every province, city and municipality with the local chief executive appointing a PWD affairs officer to manage and oversee the operations of the office. Priority shall be given to a qualified PWD to head and man the office in carrying out the following functions:

  1. Formulate and implement policies, plans and programs for the promotion of the welfare of PWDs in coordination with concerned national and local government agencies.
  2. Coordinate the implementation of this Act, Batas Pambansa Blg. 344 or the Accessibility Law and other relevant laws at the local level.
  3. Represent PWDs in meetings of local development councils and other special bodies.
  4. Recommend and enjoin the participation of NGOs and people’s organizations (POs) in the implementation of
    disability-related laws and policies.
  5. Gather and compile relevant data on PWDs in their localities.
  6. Disseminate information including programs and activities for PWDs, statistics on PWDs, including children with disability and training and employment opportunities for PWDs.
  7. Submit reports to the office of the local chief executive on the implementation of programs and services for the promotion of the welfare of PWDs in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
  8. Ensure that the policies, plans and programs for the promotion of the welfare of PWDs are funded by both the national and local government.
  9. Monitor fundraising activities being conducted for the benefit of PWDs.
  10. Seek donations in cash or kind from local or foreign donors to implement an approved work plan for PWDs in accordance with existing laws and regulations.
  11. Perform such other functions as may be necessary for the promotion and protection of the welfare of PWDs.

Within three years from the effectivity of this Act, appropriate agencies headed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, in consultation with the National Council on Disability Affairs and other relevant NGOs and POs shall review the implementation and recommend to Congress the need to mandate the establishment of a PDAO in 4th, 5th and 6th class municipalities.

The national government, through the DSWD, shall ensure that the annual budget includes provisions to fund programs and provide support to PWDs. Local governments shall ensure that the necessary funds from any available local revenue are allocated for the implementation of this Act for the benefit of PWDs.

This very important law for PWDs did not create any buzz in the national arena. This might be because the people are more focused on the last elections. However, this will be very exciting for us because the local government units will not take us for granted anymore. They must create their own special office which caters purely on the needs and assistance for Persons With Disabilities. I hope that this won’t be just another flash in a pan.

Please read related articles here and here.

Best Actor trophy Goes to the Deaf!

Romalito Mallari
Dinig Sana Kita Movie Poster

NO ONE was more surprised than Rome himself.

Romalito “Rome” Mallari, the Deaf actor in the Cinemalaya entry “Dinig Sana Kita,” scored an “unexpected victory” at the Star Awards, handed out by the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC).

Mallari won Best New Movie Actor, beating ABS-CBN’s current fair-haired boy Enchong Dee (who was nominated for “Paano Ko Sasabihin?”).

“Dinig” director Mike Sandejas commended the PMPC for choosing “a Deaf boy with no real future prospects in the industry over an upcoming popular actor … They simply believed that he deserved it. It was a leap of faith.”

Read the complete news article from Inquirer.net

This blogger is truly proud of your accomplishments, Rome! 🙂

Today is Election Day!

Election 2010 - Image from palipasan.blogspot.com
THIS IS IT!

Today is the day when the Philippines will decide who will govern for the next six years!

Today is the day when voters troop to the precincts to experience fully automated election for the FIRST TIME.

Today is the day of fresh hopes and new beginnings.

Although nearly everybody in my country is excited to participate in this national election, some of us are not. Especially the Persons With Disabilities. Most especially the members of the Deaf community. 🙁

I said Persons With Disabilities because of the disqualification of the only PWD party list that applied for accreditation. The Disabled Pinoy Party which represents nine-million strong sector of Filipinos with Disabilities, was denied accreditation by the Commission on Elections simply because they cannot mount a nationwide campaign. So now, only the moneyed and influential sector can have a seat in the congress. Not the marginalized and underrepresented ones. That is very sad. 🙁

Another saddening note was about the Deaf community. I recently found out that majority of the deaf people in my country cannot vote. The reason? They were not able to register. Not that they were misinformed. They were simply, NOT INFORMED. It’s very disheartening to find out that many parents don’t realize the inherent rights of their children to exercise their right to vote. And that includes their Deaf child.

Some of them simply don’t feel that their deaf children are not capable, not discerning and not INTELLIGENT ENOUGH to think for themselves. They did not even bother to assist them in registering to the nearest COMELEC office. I had an informal survey on why most of them cannot vote. Many of them said that their parents did not bother to help them. That’s sad double whammy! 🙁

So today, I will exercise my right as a Filipino Citizen. Today, I will still do my mission as a sign language interpreter by assisting my inner circle of three Deaf buddies Ervin, Jerome and Owen to vote. At least I did something, albeit small.

I am one with the entire nation in praying for an orderly, peaceful and honest elections. 🙂

PS:
Here are the candidates that I will vote. President: Richard Gordon, Vice President: Jejomar Binay, Senators: Bong Revilla, Miriam Defensor, Bongbong Marcos and Satur Ocampo. Quezon City Mayor: Herbert Bautista (Two of our MCCID students work at QC Hall through his initiative.) Vice Mayor: Joy Belmonte (She was with the Philippine Team during the Abilympics Skills Competition in India in 2003 so she supports the Filipino Deaf.) I’m not a registered voter of Isabela province but I recommend that you vote for Gov. Grace Padaca, the most famous Disabled Filipino.

Win or lose, it’s ok. What’s important is that I voted from my heart. 🙂

Download Filipino Sign Language Font for FREE

MCCID FSL Font Samples
The first and only Filipino Sign Language Font is now available for FREE and is ready for download. Called MCCID FSL FONT, this type belongs the the Dingbat fonts. A dingbat is a term used in the computer industry to describe fonts that have symbols and shapes in the positions designated for alphabetical or numeric characters.

This FSL Font is exclusively owned and designed by MCCID College of Technology. It has all the equivalent alphabets and numeric characters that are used in finger spelling and hand sign. The hands used are similar to those with white gloves so special markings like fingernails and hand lines don’t appear. The characters are comic like to make the letters more clear and easier to copy.

Special Characters

MCCID FSL Font is different from other sign language fonts because it presents the uniquely Filipino signs of the letters “E” and “G”. Aside from that, it also has equivalent hand signs for 29 special keyboard characters including the ampersand (&), dollar ($), per cent (%), etc. A total of 65 characters are represented in signs.

Awarding Ceremony held last February 20
From left: Me, Deaf FSL Font Designer Jennyfer Cahilig and Deaf Teacher Sir Ervin Reyes

MCCID FSL Font was launched during the Awarding Ceremony last April 8. I demonstrated how this font can be installed and used in the computer. A font design contest among Diploma in Arts and Computer Design Technology students were held in January of this year. Out of ten students who competed, the entry of Jennyfer Cahilig won. The announcement was made during the Valentine Program held last February 22. Jennyfer received P2,000 cash prize. Each finger sign she designed was then scanned and converted into fonts.

MCCID aims for the font to be accessed and installed freely to anybody’s computers in order to promote the learning of sign language and increase people’s awareness in learning this special language of the Deaf people.

Font Features

  • MCCID FSL Font is on its first version (135 kb). Expect a clearer and more accurate font as well as additional characters in the near future.
  • MCCID FSL Font is a True Type Font. The primary strength of TrueType was originally that it offered font developers a high degree of control over precisely how their fonts are displayed, right down to particular pixels, at various font heights.
  • It can be installed into any PC with Windows Operating System (XP, Vista and 7) as well as Apple Mac OS 10 and above. It has also been tested for Linux Based OS (Ubuntu).
  • Lower case and upper case hand letters are the same.
  • MCCID FSL Font is a Regular Font. It means you can convert each character into Boldface and Italics.
  • As a dingbat font, MCCID FSL Font does not appear clearly on font size lower than 90. You can better appreciate the font if you change the character size to 100 and above. 300 is the recommended font size.
  • Unlike the Gallaudet American Sign Language Font, British Sign Language Font or Braille Fonts, the MCCID FSL Font offers more than 50 equivalent keyboard characters except for the tilde (~), caret (^) and closed apostrophe (`).

A special Facebook Fan Page was created so that people can freely access the font and its feature. There are already 254 people who liked it as of April 30.

How to Install MCCID FSL Font

For Windows Vista and 7:

Installing fonts are easy and quick. Do this.

  1. In your favorite browser (IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.), click on the link below the banner of this website or click on this link. We will use Internet Explorer 8 in this demonstration.
  2. Since the file (mccidfsl.ttf) is only 135 kb, the File Download Dialog Box appears in a flash. You may chose between Open or Save.
  3. Screenshot of Install Font Dialog Box

  4. If you select Open, it automatically shows the Install Dialog box. Select Install.
  5. The font will be copied into Fonts folder inside the Windows folder. It will now be ready to use. Open your favorite softwares (MS Word, Excel, etc.) and simply select MCCID FSL Font.

Please go to the following links for instructions on how to install the font in different operating systems.

  1. For Windows XP
  2. For MAC OS 10 and above
  3. For Ubuntu Linux