A child who suffers from a hearing disability may never learn how to speak, only make unintelligible utterances. The ability to hear is crucial in a child’s ability to learn a language and this is why it is important that a mother must be able to identify early on if her child suffers from a hearing disability. One of the first few signs of hearing loss in a child is when they do not respond when called. While a baby may not be able to communicate in terms of words, a child knows the feelings of the parents based on the intonation of their voice. This is true if the baby is able to hear. Aside from being able to hear the sounds, a baby can also “feel” the sound. A distressed mother can express the strength of her emotions through the vibrations made by her voice which many of us take for granted.
Growing up, many deaf children face a myriad of situations, most notable among these are bullying, sexual assault, discrimination and public ridicule. All of these abusive behavior that are done to victimize the deaf are encouraged because of the apathy showed by the rest of the community, an apathy that is a result of the great lack of social awareness by hearing people.
One of the most disturbing occurrences in the Philippines is sexual assault on deaf girls. Perpetrators are confident that to sexually assault a young deaf girl will most likely mean that they will not be found out because of the deaf victim’s inability to tell her family or even less, the lack of believability of deaf victims when they try to tell the authorities. Even our women’s desk in most police stations are ill-equipped to get a statement from a deaf victim. More often than not, police will request for the assistance of a hearing person related to the deaf victim who can help “interpret” the statement. Our courts do not look too kindly to deaf victims, often mistaking them for someone without a sound mind.
Such is also the case of the group of deaf customers who dined at the food court of SM Telebastagan. A group of deaf customers dined at the food court and lingered for the usual conversation and get together. A manager of the mall accosted them and sent them away because they were being “too noisy” and that if they were not paying customers. The manager even approached the deaf customers along with security personnel who seemed prepared to forcibly escort them out of the food court. This incident was reported to the director of the NCDA or the National Council for Disability Affairs with the resolution leaving no justice done for the group of deaf people. After hearing the side of SM Telebastagan, the NCDA director posted on Facebook the words “SM Cares.” Whether that was sarcastic or not, no one knows.
There are some solutions to a hearing disability, the most common is the hearing aid. Never mind if some hearing disabilities are not fixed by the latest binaural hearing aids as there are only a few who are not responsive to such treatment. There are many kinds of technologies employed by companies to make hearing aids “smarter”, but the smarter the device, the more expensive it becomes. Hearing aids, more so cochlear implants, will usually cost from hundreds of thousands of pesos to more than one million pesos, plus maintenance medicines and specialists’ professional fees among others. While the government, through agencies such as PhilHealth and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, offers free assistance for assistive devices such as white canes, wheelchairs and hearing aids. PhilHealth for one has a set of benefits specifically for the PWDs, another for the senior citizens and a specific set for everybody else. However the cost of total medical care cannot be shouldered by government alone and even with the benefit of social security, patients much have their own resources to sustain treatment.
Having a hearing disability is not always a bane as much as it can be a boon too. The Metro Manila Development Administration (MMDA) has a job specifically for those who are undistracted by sounds. In the course of the newly implemented No-Contact-Apprehension policy, the MMDA has hired a group of deaf employees who vigilantly watch street surveillance videos and identify those who have a violation. This group of deaf employees have been known to be highly focused and very efficient in their job because they are practically immune to distractions from their surroundings giving them intense focus on their tasks, a degree of focus that has never been demonstrated by even their most dedicated hearing personnel. It is just a shame when very few companies are willing to hire deaf employees. Aside from their focus made of steel, hiring persons with disabilities also has some very attractive tax incentives. Companies who hire PWDs can get back 25% of the PWD employee’s salary in the form of tax rebates from their corporate taxes. They have only to show documentation of the employee’s salaries and tax statement along with a photocopy of the employee’s PWD ID as proof of the disability status. Other incentives include subsidies on building improvement mean to make the building more PWD-friendly such as ramps, chair lifts and elevators. A substantial portion of the cost that went into the construction of these building improvements can be subsidized by the government, again through tax rebates.
The recent update to the coverage laws of PhilHealth is a welcome development indeed. With the mandatory coverage from PhilHealth, PWDs can be assured of adequate government support for their health and their maintenance costs incurred during treatment and therapy. This kind of support has been elusive in the past, despite having the needed funds. Elections or not, we in the PWD community are happy that health care support for us and the senior citizens is improving each year. We still have a lot to be thankful for.