Special stories of inspiration

MANILA, Philippines — The fact that more and more individuals are becoming aware about persons with special needs augurs well for the entire community of people looking after the welfare of persons with  disabilities (PWDs). They are the special educators, parents, doctors, and even ordinary Filipinos who all have the heart of PWDs.

Last year, a photographer, a graduate class, even a mall chain, have contributed greatly to advocacy of PWDs. And then there are educators, an architect. a group of athletes, and a pilot — who despite their disablities have showed to the world that they can do things any normal person can.
Students and Campuses Bulletin lists down 2011's most inspiring stories about individuals and groups who give and imspire for the sake of others.

She can fly!

Filipino-American Jessica Cox, born armless, can drive a car, go scuba diving, apply her own make-up, and fly a plane! She is the first licensed armless pilot in the world at 28 years old, making her earn a special spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Born and raised in Arizona in the United States to an American father and a Filipino mother, Jessica opted to junk her artificial limbs when she turned 14. After all, with just her feet, she can do almost anything and so much more!

Today, Jessica has inspired people from around the world through her inspirational talks. She is a professional motivational speaker, speaking before thousands of abled and differently-abled people from the US to Asia to Africa, in schools, churches, companies, and many more. Her only goal is to inspire people, challenge them even, to be the best that they can be — with or without limbs.

Assistive special technology comes to the fore

Assistive technology is becoming more and more accessible. Last year, various technologies in aid of PWDs have come out. Mobile devices like smart phones and tablets, for instance, have become more PWD-friendly. There are special applications in these devices that can be used by PWDs such as voice recognition for the blind, and a translator that processes speech to messages and commands for specific tasks. There’s also the text-to-speech program which helps read the messages for the owner.

There’s also the assistive technology for the physically disabled. A paraplegic can now wear an exoskeleton, which is a mobile battery-powered robotic frame a person can wear that can enhance mobility. More technologies for PWDs are expected to come out this year such as the tactile touch screen.

Inspiring teacher

Rosbelle Ligaya Mercurio is one of last year’s outstanding teachers for her exemplary work in special education. With the help of the local government of Carmona in Cavite, she was able to establish the Persons with Disabilities Coordinating Office in 2000 inside Carmona Elementary School.

Initially, the center catered to 13 students. Today, it has 88 children with conditions that include autism, cerebral palsy, physical handicapped, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and many more.

The center offers diagnosis and referrals conducted by its developmental pediatrician. They do rehabilitation and different education program such as early intervention, SpEd tutorials, and normalization (mainstreaming, inclusion, integration). They also offer special programs such as the Adaptive Skills Program, which consists of three courses namely — Applied Academics, Practical Living, and Leisure and Recreation. The center also offers an entrepreneurial program for older learners to enable them to develop work competencies.

Mercurio became an inspiration to the citizens of Carmona. She was hailed as Outstanding Citizen in 2003 and received a Lingkod Bayan award in 2009. In 2011, she was one of four teacher-honorees of The Many Faces of the Teachers, an annual search for outstanding educators in the country conducted by Bato Balani Foundation, Inc. and in partnership with Diwa Learning Systems.

A company that truly cares

As a consistent recipient of Disabled-Friendly Establishment award of the Apolinario Mabini Awards, SM is a company that walks the talk as far as the accessibility law is concerned. It makes sure that every PWD has access to its huge malls.

But SM did not stop there and solidifies is commitment by establishing a special department called the SM Program for Disability Affairs. The department aims to help enable the lives of customers that are physically-challenged and need special care. They partner with different organizations like Autism Society Philippines and train their employees in the right way of handling people with special needs. They also work with different programs such as the Photography with a Difference to help spread awareness on PWDs.

Mrs. PWD

Inspired by her John Chua’s work, Harvey V. Chua is also making a difference on her own. A believer of the power of family portraits, she started the “Colors of Hope” program with her AB Photography students at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.

“Colors of Hope’’ is a series of portrait sessions involving the families of the child-beneficiaries of Kythe Foundation, a group that provides psycho-social care to chronically ill children. Students from schools such as DLS-CSB and the University of Sto. Tomas, act as the photographer, capturing precious moments that transpire among the children and their families.

Chua’s group plans to take all the portraits of 200 families of the Kythe kids, extending the Photography with a Difference advocacy even to students in the hope that they themselves will spread the word on the noble advocacy.

Blind man goes to the U.N.

Lauro Purcil is determined to advance the rights of persons with disabilities. After all, he understands the plight of every PWD in the country for better access, education and welfare because he too is one of them. Purcil is visually impaired.

His disability pushed him to work harder for the rights of PWDs. He is also one of the recipients of the Apolinario Mabini Awards in recognition of his PWD-rights based advocacy and strong working role with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCR PD). He contributed to the drafting of the UNCRPNCRPNCRPNCRPD, working closely with other PWD leaders in the Unitged Nations to work on the said convention. He is the lead convenor of the Philippine coalition to this convention.

Purcil currently works as education specialist of the Special Education Division of the Department of Education. He also consults with various NGOs like the Katipunan ng May Kapansanan sa Pilipinas, Inc. (KAMPIMPI ), an organization that advocates for the better implementation of the UNCRPD.

Photography with a difference

John K. Chua, one of the country’s top advertising photographers, has something more to show than his clients’ photographs and award-winning works. He also works with children with autism, visually impairment, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Down syndrome, through Photography with a Difference (PWD), a program that aims to spread awareness on persons with disabilities through photographs. The group organizes workshops for amateur photographers wherein they try to capture special moments of special needs children and their families while on a zoo tour, or while flying aboard a military aircraft or light planes. Those captured special moments are then put up in a public exhibition.

Because of his noble work, Chua received last year the Rehabilitation Volunteer (private sector) award of the Apolinario Mabini Awards. The Awards is a biennial program of the Philippine Foundation for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled (PFRD) that seeks to honor persons with disabilities who have excelled in their chosen careers, as well as individuals, groups and entities that have contributed much to the welfare of disabled individuals.

Special athletes

They have done what normal Filipino athletes couldn’t — bring home gold medals. Last year, the athletes of the Special Olympics Philippine team brought home a total of 49 medals including 22 gold medals from the Special Olympics World Summer Games, held last year in Athens Greece.

The Philippine team, composed of athletes with intellectual disabilities like Down Syndrome, autism, Cerebral Palsy, etc., competed with teams from 185 different countries in 22 Olympic-type sports like swimming, bowling, basketball, power lifting, bocce, among others. Their achievement proves that even people with special needs can achieve what most normal people can, or rather can’t.

The Special Olympics Philippines has been training special athletes for more than 30 years now. The non-profit humanitarian organization aims to help individuals with intellectual disability achieve their potentials through an organized year-round program of sports training, athletic competition and recreation.

The blind architect

Visually impaired architect Jaime Silva may no longer be designing houses or buildings now but he continues to contribute to the profession he is passionate about.

A member of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), Silva is the chairman of the organization’s Accessibility Committee, and was recently awarded Architect of the Year by the Philippine Foundation for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled (PFRD) through its Apolinario Mabini Awards. He was recognized for his efforts in promoting the Accessibility Law.

At present, Silva works for the National Council for Disability Affairs monitoring committee on accessibility. He works with architects and engineers, checking and assessing buildings’ compliance with the Accessibility Law (Batas Pambansa Bilang 344), an act to enhance the mobility of disabled persons by requiring certain buildings, institutions, establishments and public utilities to install facilities and other devices for PWDs. Silva also goes around the country and holds talks and seminars on the accessibility law.

Helping Pwd victims get justice

The graduate class of Women and Law of the University of the Philippines College of Social Work and Community Development (UP CSWCD) submitted the first Filipino deaf case communication to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CE DAW) under the Optional Protocol.

Under the CE DAW Optional Protocol, a victim of discrimination may bring her case before the committee after all local legal remedies have been exhausted. CECEDAW then reviews the case and discusses with the committee, afterwhich it issues its recommendation to the state party.

They filed a communication on the case of a female rape victim who is deaf. Her case is reportedly an example of the failure of the state to defend the dignity of women with disabilities. The communication brought before the committee a complaint against the legal system and its failure to address the needs of a person with disability (PWD). Such failures, they pointed out, are the lack of sign language interpreting during the duration of the trial, the insensitivity to the rights of a woman PWD, several discriminatory aspect of the legal proceedings, and the basing of the acquittal of the perpetrator on gender myths and stereotypes.

According to PDRCRC, most of the cases involving the hearing-impaired are women.

Source: Manila Bulletin

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