BLIND SPOT: Naga and Cam Sur ‘Say Eye Will’

Joseph Ochoa ““There are so many opportunities in life, that the loss of two or three capabilities is not necessarily debilitating…” – Jim Davis “Say Eye Will” Training for Teachers to Learners with Visual Impairment was held from March 11 to 13, 2017 at the PSO Blue Room and Resource Center for the Blind, Naga City hall, to SPED teachers and receiving teachers of pupils and students with visual impairment, within Naga City, across Camarines Sur, and Camarines Norte, and college students majoring in SPED in certain major universities in Naga City. Guest speakers in the training were Hoang Thi Nga, Dean of the Special Education Faculty of the Pedagogy University of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Hà Thanh Vân, Principal of the Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, both under the support of English national, Davina “Gabby” Morritt, President and CEO of Eye Will, Inc., a charitable non-government organization based in Hue, Vietnam, founded to support education for persons with disability in developing countries, in partnership with the local government unit of Naga through the Resource Center for the Blind, Philippine Blind U nion and Naga Central School II SPED Center Visually Impaired Department. The training was aimed to Identify adaptations and accommodations for curriculum modification, based on the potentials and needs of learners with visual impairment, in the context of inclusive education; and Adapt these strategies of adaptations and accommodations as component of curriculum modification for implementation of a comprehensive and inclusive program instruction for learners with visual impairment, as confidence in taking measures towards the full development of human potential and sense of dignity and self-worth, and the strengthening of respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and human diversity among learners with visual impairment, through appropriate and inclusive education, are acquired. Among the resource speakers were Ateneo de Naga University faculty, Ma. Jeanette O. Naval Ph.D., San Rafael Elementary School SPED Center Principal Edna J. San Jose, Felix Chavez and Joseph Bautista, both of Resource Center for the Blind. In case your mind got jumbled with the terms, a SPED teacher is a Special education teacher who works “with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities (in the context of the training, sensory impairment – visual impairment) by adapting general education lessons to the context of children with special needs. On the other hand, a receiving teacher (or in other cases, referred to as a general teacher) works with a regular class with one to two children with special needs in the class in an inclusive setting; thus “receiving the child with exceptionality” in his/her regular class. Philippine education as per DepEd Order no. 72 s. 2009, is posed towards inclusive education for children with disability (at least on documents), not segregated in self-contained classrooms, but engaging in learning experience alongside regular children in a regular classroom. As stated in RA 7277 or the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability Section 12 Access to Quality Education paragraph 1, “It shall be unlawful for any learning institution to deny a person with disability admission to any course it offers by reason of handicap or disability.” Ironically, while the training is in a stance to promote inclusive education for Filipino learners with visual impairment, the guest speakers come from a setting in which learners with visual impairment are self-contained in a school exclusively for the blind. If you have paid attention, one of the guests is the head of Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind, which by the name itself, suggests of an academic institution exclusively for students with visual impairment, safe and secluded from the pressures of the regular classroom environment, in which children with blindness have to keep up with challenges in the level of that faced with regular learners, and the social struggles that come with interactions with a potentially discriminating sighted society. In one perspective, such setup is beneficial as it facilitates the direction of services, because the recipients are gathered in one physical community. However, on the other hand, considering local context, would that be feasible for learners with visual impairment residing in Labo, Caramoan, in remote areas of Tigaon, in Libmanan, in Calabanga, in economic conditions in which travel fare is an everyday struggle? I had a student with total blindness, from Sipocot once, and she and her mother had to catch the 3 pm train every day to go home in an affordable transport fare, which means she had to take leave from class at 2 pm. I have observed persons with visual impairment who had taken most of academic life in self-contained settings, and have underdeveloped perceptions of oneself and society, and social skills. Take into consideration living inside the box of self-contained class, safe from discrimination and bullying, and at the same time, lacking the opportunity of regular social experiences. “…my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9