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BLIND SPOT: White cane for Filipino society

I was asking a member of the secretariat for assistance in signing up for a training seminar to which I was dispatched to attend. Upon hearing that I had visual impairment, in high tone of voice, she inquired if I could see towards a direction to which she pointed. I replied, “No”. (Heck, I couldn’t even tell to which direction she was pointing.) With that, I was sternly discouraged from attendance because activities, according to this individual, were, “visual” in nature, and I would not be able to participate anyway. I responded that my presence there was in response to instructions from my superiors. I was told by the same person that my attempt to register would be signified. I kindly left the hotel function hall; and resolved to go home. (No hard feelings. I would enjoy my time bumming around at home.) That same day, I received a message from a direct supervisor to return to the seminar training the following morning. Apparently, any misunderstanding had been sorted out. This happened three m onths ago this year in the highly urbanized city of Naga. May I add that the secretariat were members of a foundation that engages in advocacy for programs for persons with disability based in Metro Manila, a national foundation at that. Talk about irony. (And I expected this kind of experience in a rural setting, ignorant from the ideals of social inclusion of differently abled individuals; but I guess, life does not run out of surprises.) August 1 is White Cane Safety Day (based on RA 6759) which is intended to instill public awareness of the plight of persons with visual impairment, promote recognition and acceptance of the white cane as a symbol of the need of the sector for specific assistance and as a reminder of the individual’s duty to care for and accord due respect to a person with visual impairment. This year (as in previous years and most probably in subsequent years since it is legally mandated) the state seeks to promote, recognize and Observe the white Cane as a symbol of talents and skills of persons with visual impairment as productive members of society. Personally, I pay high respects to the great effort which has been accomplished towards this end. Barriers have been broken; and opportunities for education and employment have been opened. Just recently, three persons with visual impairment graduated with BS Information Technology degrees in STI Naga, and another person with the same exceptionality graduated with degree in Bachelor of Laws in the University of Nueva Caceres. However, great frontiers have yet to be conquered in state agencies’ openness for accommodations in professional, licensure and certification examinations and the like. The public’s consciousness has yet to be uncluttered to the acceptance of employability of underrated yet qualified persons with visual impairment. Many a person with low vision or total blindness face difficulty in the pursuit of sustainable and gainful employment because of employers’ jitters in hiring an applicant who depends on sound to use the computer. “However, the predicament is not exclusive in one sector. One of the most serious problems in the Philippines… concerned the large number of students who completed college but then could not find a job commensurate with their educational skills. If properly utilized, these trained personnel could facilitate economic development, but when left idle or forced to take jobs beneath their qualifications, this group could be a major source of discontent.” ( “Because of the belief that a progressive industrial country requires a well – educated population, the government initiated the establishment of HEIs (higher educational institutions) across the archipelago. The expansion was unparalleled; however, the quality was forgone for quantity. This contention is proven by the findings of Cortes and Balmores in their book, The State of Philippine Education wherein they observe that the proliferation of higher educational institutions in the country is political in nature, unplanned and of low excellence. They also observe that there is a severe misdistribution of HEIs in the country, where colleges and universities tend to concentrate only in urban areas rather than in rural areas, thereby exacerbating the educational inequality. ( Perhaps, it is not only the Filipino with visual impairment that needs a white cane for physical mobility, but a greater mass of the populace need an assistive device of a walking cane for social and economic mobility to square off and gain orientation of well-planned higher education, to prod through thickets of politicized potholed pavements, and tap along the shoreline from the inaccessibility of unemployment and underemployment; so that the Filipino nation may see through social and economic disorientation and immobility. “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” Proverbs 29:18

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