PWDPhil partners with Angono PDAO for the PWEDe Initiative

Finally, the rain.

With generous assistance from the Rotary Club of Makati Dasmarinas, PWDPhil has partnered with the Angono PDAO, headed by Amormio Vitor for the pilot project of the PWDe Initiative. Continue reading

Uber Manila hires PWD drivers

Uber Manila yesterday launched a program that fully supports the giving of income generating opportunities to Pinoys with disabilities. Uber Manila’s program already includes certain partner-drivers who claim to be hard of hearing but not totally deaf. These drivers spoke to the media of the benefits of the income they have made from being a partner-driver using their own vehicles. Uber clearly identifies which drivers are disabled by showing a PWD icon on their profiles and it will be the choice of the passenger to ride with them or not.

Yes it’s a good move, but…

In 2009, the World Federation of the Deaf made a statement on the right of deaf to drive a car or any other vehicle.

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We at PWDPhil.com support this statement and that Pinoys with Disabilities should be given the right to drive a motor vehicle. While there have been no studies proving that deaf drivers are more prone to accidents than normal-hearing drivers, it has been well-established in many studies that sound is not a primary consideration when driving a motor vehicle. The most crucial sense to driving is the sense of sight and the sense of touch. While hearing can be complimentary, it is not as crucial as sight. That is why we can still drive safely even while the radio is at high volume. We also believe that many of our disabled brothers and sisters are already marginalized as it is and giving them opportunities for mobility would be more than welcome.

How is Uber Manila ready for the PWD partner-driver?

However, PWDs have rights too. Such as the VAT exemption, exemption from coding, premium and reserved parking space near ramps and building entrances and tax relief. How Uber Manila intends to address these issues and ensure that the deaf drivers are given their due, CEO Laurence Cua did not say. Yes, they have technologies that will assist the driver such as the Beethoven technology where calling is automatically disabled if you are trying to contact a PWD driver. There is also the question of protection for the PWD driver as many PWDs are subject to ridicule and humiliation. Uber Manila also made no mention of how they can protect their PWD partner-drivers during these instances. They did mention the need to educate riders on discriminating against a PWD driver, but there is also the rider’s right to choose, and that may be misconstrued as discrimination.  In my opinion, educating the public about the safety of riding with deaf drivers should have been done prior to the launching of this program to increase its acceptance by the public. Pushing something like this to the consumer without a prior education campaign may become the source of several issues. Though many Uber PWD drivers are lauded and given high ratings for their safe driving style, courtesy and good service, it will not save the deaf drivers from undereducated and abusive riders. Training the deaf drivers on how to handle such situations should be in place as well.

Is the program legal in the Philippines?

And there is the question of legality. In Europe and in the US, deaf drivers are allowed to drive commercial vehicles, such as buses, cabs and cargo trucks. While deaf drivers are given licenses to drive in the Philippines, a check with the Land Transportation Office confirmed that deaf drivers here are only given a Non-Professional driver’s license with the restriction code clearly mentioning which type of vehicle the deaf driver is allowed to drive and under which condition the deaf driver is licensed. The Land Transportation Office customer hotline mentioned that there is condition E which means the deaf driver is allowed to drive but only when accompanied by a person of normal hearing. Discrimination? Maybe, maybe not, but it is the law. Deaf drivers are NOT given Professional Driver’s Licenses.

So if the deaf driver’s main line of work is driving for pay, there could be a legal issue with this program by Uber Manila, because deaf drivers, by law, are not allowed to drive commercially.

What do you think?

 

Are we ready for robots teaching autistic children?

Robots teaching autistic children? I was in a seminar sponsored by the Autism Society Philippines on July 19 at the De la Salle University’s Yuchengco Auditorium. The development of next-gen adaptive and assistive technologies for PWDs was the focus of this seminar and two of De Lasalle’s science professors Clement Ong and John Cabibihan were on hand to talk about the research and studies they have done aimed at helping autistic children learn. Both professors have been active in developing practical applications of robots, particularly Cabibihan who has made studies in the use of social robotics for teaching autistic children.

De la Salle professor Clement Ong shares  his discoveries.

In my opinion, there is a great deal to be accomplished to make the use of robots part of mainstream methodologies in the education of autistic children. As the representative of Philhealth mentioned, technology need not be a gadget or anything high tech. It could be as complicated as management software on a smartphone or as basic as a walking stick. Robots teaching autistic children has yet to be seen  to be effective, even in the first-world countries. What is needed are technologies that can be used here and now. What is important is that assistive technology, in whatever form or function, become affordable, available and government-approved.

Persons with Disabilities need emerging technologies that will help integrate them into mainstream society. There exists a very clear cut divide between the disabled and non-disabled and because the disabled are a minority, it is easy to dismiss them. Besides, what is 1.6% of the total population? Very marginal.

However, in the Philippine setting, family ties are usually very strong and in most households that have a PWD in the family, there will be at least two or three persons taking care of the PWD, making the 1.6% ballooning to three or even four times that number. The caretakers of PWDs are just as important stakeholders as the PWDs themselves.

The good news is that PhilHealth has approved the funding for PWDs who need wheelchairs, walking sticks, hearing aids and other similar assistive instruments. If you need to know more about what how to apply to PhilHealth, please go to this website. As of now, hearing aids are covered by PhilHealth, but not cochlear implants. These implants are more efficient and better than hearing aids, but because there is no large demand, the price of one implant is still prohibitive.

Image borrowed from www.technocrazed.com

Challenges to the development of assistive technologies

One of the biggest hurdles to the development of such technologies is the lack of data. PhilHealth, upon approval of the budget amendments for persons with disabilities, needed to conduct their own survey to determine which disability was the most common among the PWDs in the Philippines. It turned out that the highest number of PWDs were the visually challenged. No exact statistics were given. This is the same problem with other groups developing adaptive and assistive technologies; the gap of not know who they should be developing for. One cannot make a dent of a difference if there is no specific niche for which the technology will be used.

How are they fixing this lack of research data

In PWDPhil.com, many have called and asked for assistance regarding the availability of relevant statistics for the PWD community. Sadly, the NCDA admitted that their data was as old as 2010 and were not as updated. There was a request for the Philippine Statistics Office to include certain questions directed at finding out at least how many PWDs were in each household, since a nationwide demographic study is made anyway on a yearly basis. This extra question would be both important and a cost-saver. At the same time, the resulting statistics can be used to extrapolate other relevant data crucial to the development of next-generation adaptive and assistive technologies. Time-to-market of these devices can be greatly lessened and be made available earlier than anticipated.

Many PWDs and their caretakers are praying that such high tech can be made available and affordable to those who need it. More often than not, assistive technologies used by the PWDs end up being used by senior citizens, who hearing, eyesight and health begin to fail in their twilight years. Walkers, canes, wheelchairs and hearing aids eventually become mainstream as the population ages and demand for these devices go up.

This is the very reason that we need to elevate the level of discussions on PWD rights and tech. If we do not continue and sustain the discussions, offline or online, our community will be marginalized and will only be important when politicians need to have bleeding hearts on their side to win elections. The PWD community is not a group to be abused and exploited, it is a community of real, functional and exceptional people who have the right to be seen, heard and consulted.

From ASP event DLSU

Smartphone Accessibility Features For Those With Low Vision

Technology need not be exclusively for the non-disabled because there are smartphone accessibility features which can be used by those with low vision. Depending on the nature of the disability, smartphones can also be used comfortably as there are several smartphone features designed to be used for various disabilities. Continue reading

Cellphone Accessibility Features for PWDs

For many years, Pinoys with Disabilities have been struggling with their use of technology and the some of the few tools available are native cellphone accessibility features which many tech companies and enthusiasts have, time and again, failed to highlight and make known.

Here is a list of features that the Pinoy with Disability will want to know about to guide you when purchasing a phone. There will be features that are useless to you, such as retina displays for the blind, or stereo sound for the deaf. Such being the case, the PWD phone customer will need to know the features that  they will be able to use to be properly guided with their purchase. Below are a list of features that a PWD would be interested in. Please do read through and we hope that this post will work as a helpful guide.

For the deaf or hearing-impared

1. Vibrating alerts – The most basic feature on any phone, if you are a little hard of hearing or totally deaf, a vibrating alert is crucial for you to see or respond to an incoming text message or email.

2. Support for closed captions – The use of closed captions have been around since the late 1980s which has been standard in many foreign TV shows. Even for the non-disabled folk, closed captions have allowed them to enjoy movies by being able to read the dialogue on videos where the actors may talk too fast, unintelligible or in another language. For the deaf, closed captions have made PWDs part of the growing audiences for movies and TV shows, both locally and abroad.

3. Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC) – If you are using a hearing aid, you will need a phone that has a rating of M3/T3. In microphone mode or telecoil, a M3 or T3 rating means that there will be less interference as you would normally hear when a cellphone gets near a speaker or microphone, the noise comes in the form of audible and irritating pulses. With a M3/T3 rating, the phone will interface well with the hearing aid without the noisy feedback.

From lumia

For the blind or visually-impaired

1. Enhanced speakers – In the last three years, smartphones have been equipped with better and and better audio, even moving into two-speakered devices. That may not sound very helpful for the totally deaf, but for the senior and the hard of hearing, clear and loud speakers can be most helpful for calls and voice commands for higher level functions of the smartphone, like automated screen readers for emails and texts.

2. Screen contrast – Useless if you are blind this feature would be useless but if you have retained some of your vision, high screen contrast will, more or less, give you a better smartphone experience, even watch movies and enjoy social media just like the non-disabled people. Phones with the feature would usually also have the ability to adjust font size to 5 or 6 times the standard phone font size.

3. Text-to-speech (TTS) – Android has Talkback, IOS has VoiceOver and Windows phones have Read Aloud. TTS is a feature that speaks out the menus so that the visually impaired or even the blind can navigate through the commands of a cellphone for tasks like adding contacts, making phone calls or even changing ring tones. This works well in tandem with the Haptic Feedback feature which makes the phone vibrate every time a menu is successfully pressed.

4. Voice command – most phones have their own brand of voice command. What a Pinoy with disabilities needs a phone with voice recognition software that allows for the nuances of the Filipino accent when speaking English.

Depending on the nature of your disability, it is always best to assess your needs and purpose for using a smartphone. Only then can you make the right choice of buying the one that suits your needs. Smartphones are practically currency in this day and age and if you commute a lot, the cost may be a consideration and keeping your phone from being stolen may also be a consideration. Buying an expensive phone such as the iPhone or a Samsung S6 may be too much if an entry-level smartphone can be enough for your needs.