Filipino Sign Language Bill’s struggle for acceptance continues

Yesterday, I posted a Facebook status which says, “…. Filipino Sign Language struggle for acceptance continues… on November 27 at the House of Representatives…. ” This after the very heated argument which happened last November 19 during the Technical Working Group Sub-committee hearing on the discussion about the modification of the proposed Filipino Sign Language Bill. The “final” hearing will be held on the 27th.

Sub-committee Hearing

I was invited in the past two hearings representing our school, MCCID College. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend. But it is imperative for me to participate on this one because I have already exhausted two excuses for not attending. 🙂

I won’t mention most of what transpired, especially the debates which took nearly four hours. Cong. Antonio Tinio, principal author of the bill was very cordial and accommodating with all sides.

I was the first one who made an introduction as one of the resource persons. But I remained silent all throughout the proceedings. I won’t post any prominent names here except for congressmen, in order to respect their personal preferences. These are what I observed:

  • I’m sure some participants already noticed this. Every time a resource person comes in, he/she knows where he/she would sit in preference of his/her stand on the bill. I being an FSL advocate sat on the right side of the conference room near the front since I’m one of the early birds. So do most of the pro-FSL supporters! The “anti” FSL people were all conspicuously seated on the left! Was there a seat plan made or are we just all natural born psychics? 🙂
  • A significant number of attendees, from the congressmen (paging, Cong. Rufus Rodriguez!) down to the deaf observers, still cannot distinguish the FILIPINO (language) from FILIPINO (group of people). Some of them are at a loss when they ignorantly pronounced that Filipino Sign Language means Tagalog language translated into sign language. One high-esteemed corporate head even mentioned about globalization. It is as if we dream of the Filipino Deaf becoming future Call Center Agents!
  • Two sign language interpreters were present. On the left, FSL interpreter while on the right, SEE with which some SEE advocates corrected the term as SIGNED ENGLISH Interpreters. But after careful observation, there were many instances when both of them were nearly signing identically! Is the SEE interpreter slowly switching to a much comfortable FSL or is the FSL interpreter making things easier by following English sentences in exact order? hmmm…
  • Some perceived that FSL is an anti-English language. That’s way too unfounded. All, and I mean ALL, Special Education Centers in the Philippines use English as a medium of instruction especially in the written form. Tagalog or Filipino language is taught sparsely. Some, including oral schools, scrapped Filipino subject altogether.
  • Quite a number of participants brag about their so and so decades of teaching the deaf or being deeply involved with the deaf community. Well, I guess the number of years of service won’t always make you a better servant.
  • When the voice interpreter code switched from English to Tagalog, some used that as a proof that FSL is indeed based on Tagalog. What a shameless exposure of ignorance!
  • Some “anti” FSL washed their hands into saying that they’re not really against FSL. They just don’t want it to be used as a medium of instruction in schools. But the proposed bill is not only confined in classrooms. It must be used in all media and services including courts, hospitals, government offices and TV news interpreting.
  • Majority of the attendees were from the academe. So the “fear” of FSL being used as the “sole” language in classrooms was loudly expressed.
  • The Filipino Deaf Community was raised up. Who can be identified as part of the community and who are those who are not? Who belongs to the big “D” and those in the small “d”? This “branding” of people is a tough nut to crack.

Now, what really excited me was that the heated discussions among hearing participants (including some deaf protagonists of course) spilled over to the deaf audience. I heard that during the first committee hearing, there was only one participant from the FSL group. As expected, he was succumbed by those who were not in agreement with FSL. And so he rallied the cause and the historic Deaf March for FSL bill transpired in the morning before the second committee hearing. FSL made a strong showing in round two.


But during this third hearing, the “SEE” group brought with them a group of their deaf supporters. So the so-called, pro-FSL and anti-FSL among the Filipino Deaf community “surfaced”. The real excitement happened when they gathered outside the conference hall after the session. It was there when they made exchanges of perspective about the cause. I cannot help but stayed on to see what their real sentiments were. When Cong. Tinio joined the discussion among the deaf groups, I volunteered to voice for him. Here is what I gathered:

  • The “SEE” deaf group were not TOTALLY AGAINST FSL. Some of them even signed in FSL. But what they don’t want is for FSL to be mandated in all schools. They only want FSL to be taught as one of the subjects and SEE to be maintained as the main medium of instruction. They simply don’t want FSL to be strictly imposed on them.
  • The “FSL” deaf group lightly argued that the law must be implemented and that FSL must be recognized in ALL schools.
  • Some asked if FSL will be implemented in all schools, will oral schools be included? How could that be? What about those who are late-deafened? Will there be exclusions on the bill? If that’s the case, then the essence of the bill, which is FSL for all will not be met.

In the end, the deaf community agreed to have further talks about the issues raised. What’s important is that they don’t close their doors into making their points heard. As for me, I still believe that FSL be recognized as a native language of the Filipino Deaf and must be taught during their formative years. But the Filipino Deaf must be given a choice. It is their right.

On to round four….. 🙂

Department of Education’s Position on Filipino Sign Language Bill

Br. Armin Luistro FSC at the lobby of the Scho...
Br. Armin Luistro FSC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I can remember, the Philippines’ Department of Education had always been implementing “Total Communication System”/”Signing Exact English” in educating the Filipino Deaf. But now, all I can say that the Filipino Deaf community truly live in exciting times. 🙂

Here is the official letter of DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro addressed to Congressman Arturo Robes, Chairperson of Committee on Social Services of the House of Representatives with regards to their support in proposed Filipino Sign Language Bill (HB 6079). I took time to encode the letter and post it here because I am an advocate of accessible formats. PDFs are mostly not. Here is goes. 🙂
Department of Education (Philippines)

October 11, 2012
HON. ARTURO B. ROBES
Chairperson
Committee on Social Services
House of Representatives
Quezon City

Dear Chairperson Robes:

This refers to House Bill No. 6079 entitled, “An Act Declaring Filipino Sign Language As The National Language Of The Filipino Deaf And The Official Language Of Government in All Transactions Involving The Deaf, and Mandating Its Use in Schools, Broadcast Media, And Workplaces.”

We commend the Honorable Antonio Tinio for proposing a statutory measure on declaring Filipino Sign Language (FSL) as the National Language of the Filipino Deaf. We agree that the State shall promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities.

We share the same view that national and local state agencies shall uphold respect for their inherent dignity. Individual autonomy, and independence by guaranteeing accessibility and eliminating all forms of discrimination in all public interactions and transactions thereby ensuring their full and effective participation and inclusion in the society.

We also recognize that the State shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the Filipino Deaf can exercise the right to expression and opinion. Thus, we must promote the use of sign languages embodying the specific cultural and linguistic identity of the Filipino Deaf.

On this note, we resepectfully recommend two simple but relatively substantial provisions in the bill. First, the bill should clearly define the meaning of the term “Filipino Sign Language” for the readers’ convenience in understanding the meaning of FSL.

Second, the bill must include a provision or set of provisions that shall indicate or refer to the period of initial and full implementation of the use of the FSL as medium of instruction in Deaf Education. This is in due recognition of the fact that most of the DepED teachers teaching children/youth with hearing impairment were trained using American Sign Language in schools. Thus, the shift from American Sign Language and Filipino Sign Language or the period of transition would allow flexibility on the part of the DepED to retrain and retool its teachers, revisit and reproduce its instructional materials, and develop FSL curriculum appropriate to each region/community.

We also take this opportunity to inform this Honorable Committee that FSL and its underlying principles have been incorporated in the substitute bill of the proposed K to 12 Enhanced Basic Education Program approved by the House Committee on Basic Education last October 10, 2012. We hope that the members of the Committee on Social Services will render the same support to this proposed measure in pursuit of achieving our goal of providing quality and relevant education for all.

With the aforementioned, the DepEd would like to thank the Honorable Chairperson for giving us the chance to express our position with regard to the proposed declaration of the Filipino Sign Language as the national language for the Filipino Deaf. We are very much willing to sit down with Your Honor for a dialogue with the and in view of amplifying and clarifying the contents of this letter.

Sincerely Yours,

<signed original>

BR. ARMIN A. LUISTRO FSC

Secretary

You may view the original file in PDF Format here for purposes of comparison. 🙂

Signing nurses, anyone?

Happy deaf awareness week everyone! I received a google alert about a good news wherein nurses and other hospital personnel are encouraged to learn sign language. This is a welcome news so that they can easily communicate with their deaf patients.

Here is the entire news article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

DOH to train hospital personnel in using sign language
By Philip C. Tubeza

MANILA, Philippines—What’s the sign language for “Help! I’m dying!”?
The Department of Health (DOH) will finally start training hospital personnel in using the Filipino Sign Language (FSL) to avoid situations where “injured or dying” deaf or mute Filipino patients could not be understood by medical personnel, especially during emergency situations, a DOH official said yesterday.

According to Doctor Eduardo Janairo, DOH-National Capital Region director, the DOH will start training this year nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff members in FSL so that they could assist deaf or mute Filipinos in need of immediate medical attention.

He added that hospitals in the country have not really required interpreters for patients with speech or hearing impairment.

“I’ve seen a lot of deaf or mute patients—who were either stabbed or were in an accident—being rushed to the hospital but the nurses or doctor cannot understand them,” Janairo said at the launching in Manila of the first Filipino Sign Language Module for Health Workers.

“With this module, hospital staff will now be able to understand the deaf. Our dream actually is to have someone in all sections of our hospitals know sign language,” he added.

Janairo recalled that when he was still practicing at the Laguna Provincial Hospital in the early 1980s, he had a patient who was both deaf and mute.

“He had been stabbed so we operated on him and just named him `Boy X.’ There are many situations like that wherein we really cannot understand them,” he said.

“Or most of the time, I would want to explain his sickness to him or have him take some medicines but I could not communicate with him,” he added.

The 2000 Census on Persons with Disabilities counted 120,000 deaf Filipinos in the country. The 2004 Philippine Registry on Persons with Disability showed 571 registered deaf or mute Filipinos in Metro Manila.

Janairo said that the FSL module would be introduced first in the National Capital Region in 2012 before extending the training to hospital personnel in the provinces.

“We need to introduce FSL in our health care system and strengthen its use for the benefit of people who have difficulty hearing or speaking. Health workers will also benefit from using this module as it will enrich their knowledge, skills, and awareness on the needs of people using FSL,” Janairo said.

“Health workers will be educated and trained on the proper gestures and body movements illustrated in the module for them to be able to communicate properly with people who use sign language,” he added.

Janairo said the FSL module include the sign language equivalents of numbers, the alphabet, greetings, time, medical terms, and questions frequently asked in emergency rooms.

Trained hospital personnel could ask patients about their illness or the symptoms they have been experiencing, Janairo said.

“Health workers after the training can tell the appropriate treatment in a simple gesture…This will prevent errors in communication that can pose health risk and liability to health providers,”he added.

The FSL module was developed with the cooperation and support of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center, University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, CAP College for the Deaf, DE La Salle University-College of Saint Benilde and the Department of Education-National Capital Region.

“With this manual as a guide, we can address the health inequities in our health care system and ensure PWDs the administration of accurate health care treatment,” Janairo said.

“It is with optimism that this FSL module will pave the way for the adoption of FSL as a second medium of communication for the use of our Filipino Deaf community,” he added. With a report from Yangchen C. Rinzin

 

As an interpreter, what would you do?

In my interpreters’ circle of friends, one of them posted this question in her Facebook status,

A sign language interpreter was asked by the deaf group/audience to go on stage so they could see him better. The organizers approved but the government officer-speaker asked the interpreter to get off the stage because “he distracts her”. If you were the interpreter or one of the deaf audience WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

I was the first one who replied. I answered,

I will politely ask the speaker that there are deaf people in the audience. But if she still insists on not distracting her, then I have no other choice but to request the entire deaf audience to walk out.

I received two “likes” in my reply. But there were other more bold and strong answers. Now to my deaf and hearing readers, may I throw the question to you? What would you do if you are caught in this uncompromising position? 🙂

K-12 to use sign language as mother tongue for deaf

This is a repost from Yahoo news.

By Mikhail Franz E. Flores, VERA Files
Now that the K to 12 system of education is being enforced in the country and native languages have begun to be used as medium of instruction from kindergarten to Grade 3, deaf children will also get the chance to use their mother tongue: sign language.

The Deaf Education Council (DEC) began consultation with deaf educators in developing a sign language curriculum for non-hearing pupils at a forum at the University of the Philippines College of Education Auditorium last month.

The DEC and the deaf community will decide what sign language public schools will use in the mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) for the deaf.

The MTB-MLE is an integral part of the DepEd’s K to 12 educational reform program which added two years to the erstwhile 10-year basic education cycle. The mother tongue will be the medium of instruction from kindergarten to Grade 3. The languages include Tagalog, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Ilocano, Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Tausug, Maguindanaoan, Maranao and Chavacano.
If adopted by DepEd, Filipino Sign Language (FSL) would be the “13th mother tongue language.”
DEC was formed on the recommendation of Education Secretary Armin Luistro, who met with members of the deaf community last September. The council is mandated to provide direction and facilitate efforts to improve deaf education in the country.

The group is composed of four non-hearing and three hearing members. The non-hearing members are Rey Lee, president of the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD) as the council chair; PFD secretary George Lintag; Raphael Domingo, coordinator of Education Access for the Deaf at the Center for Education Access and Development (CEAD); and Yvette Apurado Bernardo, an executive board of the Phil-Sports Federation of the Deaf.

The hearing members are Therese Bustos a deaf education specialist from UP; Liza Martinez; director of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center and Theresa Christine dela Torre, CEAD director.
Bustos said the project is gathering volunteers to develop the curriculum. Four working committees are set to be formed to develop a curriculum for each grade level, she said.

As a language of its own, sign language must be institutionalized in schools to help non-hearing children learn in their own mother language, said Dina Ocampo, dean of the University of the Philippines College of Education.

“If we are able to mainstream signs in the Department of Educationprogramming, then we will reach more and more deaf children,” she said.

Ocampo added that deaf education is more of a language matter rather than the content of the curriculum or materials.

“The main core issue, I think, is language,” she said.

Bustos clarified that sign language is separate from spoken languages. Thus, FSL, the language used by more than half of Filipinos with hearing disability, is different from Filipino.

“Ang may koneksiyon lang sa wikang senyas na nakakonekta sa wikang sinasalita ay ang finger spelling. Lahat ng senyas ay walang kinalaman sa wikang sinasalita (Only finger spelling is related to the spoken language. All other signs have no relation with the spoken language),” Bustos said.

Bustos said that around 54 percent of Filipinos with hearing disability use FSL, which is the preferred sign language to be used as medium of instruction. However, the deaf community will still have the final say on what sign language to use for their own MTB-MLE program.

At present, the Signed Exact English (SEE), a manually encoded adaptation of spoken English, is being used as the official language for deaf students, said DepEd Undersecretary Yolanda Quijano.
The deaf community, however, prefers the FSL over the SEE since Filipinos have their own culture and identity and the FSL better reflects these.

Bustos also said the exact number of deaf schools is difficult to determine since most of them are dependent on the availability of teachers.

“Once a teacher resigns, the program is also removed,” Bustos said. The country, though, has one residential school for the deaf, the Philippine School for the Deaf.

The 2000 Census shows that around 120,000 of the total PWD population are deaf. The census puts the total number of PWDs at 942,098 or 1.23 percent of the total population of the country.The 2010 census has not been released.

A 2011 World Health Organization study said PWDs make up about 15 percent of a country’s population, especially in developing countries. This would then mean more than 13 million Filipino are PWDs.
One in two Filipinos with hearing and speech impairment has had some elementary education, 28 percent some high school, 20 percent some college and two percent up to postgraduate, according to a Social Weather Stations survey.

(VERA Files is a partner of the “Fully Abled Nation” campaign that seeks to increase participation of PWDs in the 2013 elections and other democratic process. Fully Abled Nation is supported by The Asia Foundation and the Australian Agency for International Development. VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for “true.”)