Tag Archives: India

On Filipino Seafarers

Filipino seamen can get sick during the course of their work. They could acquire hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) from operating chipping machines, needle guns, and hand held grinders. They could develop cardiovascular diseases (CVD) from multitasking. They could suffer musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) from working nonstop, or they could have cancer from exposing themselves to beryllium, cadmium, lead, and other toxic substances.

Filipino seamen could also be infected with a sexually transmitted disease for unsafe sexual activities; pandemic and epidemic diseases for visiting ports currently plagued with malaria, cholera, yellow fever, and tuberculosis, among others; or hypertension for excessive stress, fatigue, loneliness, smoking, alcoholic consumption, and lack of physical activity.

The National Conciliation and Meditation Board (NCMB) could help Filipino seafarers be compensated, though. Former bosun Alexander Billones, for one, had figured in an accident when he was hired by the KGJS Fleet Management Manila, Inc. resulting in chronic degenerative disc. He was then repatriated amidst pain in his lower back, hips, and legs. He was just assisted by lawyer Christopher Rey Valmores and conciliator-mediator Gil Caragayan in claiming P3,206,250 for settlement.

Another case is Nestor Balbaboco Jr.’s. He was employed by the North Sea Marine Service Corporation but suffered a spinal injury while on board the M/V Albatross. He was awarded P2,215,720 through NCMB-NCR Chief Leo Ma. Delia Yu’s facilitation.

One more example is Joel Florande. He was sent by the Sea Power Shipping, Inc. to M/V Efstathios where he had a mild stroke. Valmores assisted him to receive P3,636,699 settlement from the Sea Power Shipping Enterprises.

Filipino seafarers are governed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Standard Employment Contract that intends to compensate a “work-related” illness, injury or death. Someone who died of cerebrovascular disease (stroke) 17 days after a contract’s end was not compensable. Another who had been on board for only one month cannot be benefited, too. Only a widower whose seafarer husband died due to colon cancer while on board could be entitled to the benefits that her deceased husband had signed.

“An Act Protecting Seafarers Against Ambulance Chasing and Imposition of Excessive Fees and Providing Penalties Therefor” was also enacted into law to prohibit a person from soliciting an amount in exchange of a legal service to seafarers. It is simply called the Seafarers Protection Act that lowers legal fees from 40%-50% to 10% only. Hopefully, these two regulations would be modified as necessary to protect those who make up more than one-third of all ship workers in the world.

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Harvey Cureg

Notes The global shipping industry, which carries 80 percent of international trade, employs about 1.2 million seafarers, the bulk of whom come from the Philippines. (Source: GMA News Online)

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What Lea Sicat Reyes has said

In her column “Insight Avenue,” Lea Sicat Reyes has asked how can disability intervention in the Philippines become accessible to persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the country with limited resources and what should be done about it.

Countries like Vietnam, Togo, and India have successful programs in place that cater to children who live with visual and hearing impairments and other physical, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities,” she noted after mentioning the countries with similar context to the Philippines but have effectively addressed disability- related concerns.

“The Philippines can definitely gain valuable insights from their common practices,” she added.

So Reyes suggested pursuing partnerships between the government and civic groups that have the capacity to empower stakeholders. The Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF), for instance, has initiated a program in Vietnam that would “provide an integrated effort to teach deaf children sign language at a very young age, helping them to get ready to learn when they enter formal primary school.” It also funded a program on inclusive education for the PWDs in Malawi which “tests innovative methods to raise enrolment among children with disabilities who are not in mainstream schools and also supports the development of an inclusive education policy.”

Throughout the country, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the LAJ Philippines- LEGO funded the creation of the National Centers for Children with Disabilities in the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

Reyes noted, too, that a community-based approach where intervention is concerned is both practical and sustainable. Parents and families must then have a working understanding of their children’s intervention program. The disability-related concerns in the Global South1 should be studied more since “resources are readily available and systems are already in place to provide maximum support for children with disabilities” in the Global North2.

“We can no longer overlook the need to address the plight of children with disabilities in the Philippines. If we continue to allow these to fester, more and more children will be deprived of a chance to have a better quality of life. The time to act is now.” ~ Lea Sicat Reyes

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of unicefphilippines

1The Global South refers “Third World” (i.e., Africa, Latin America, and the developing countries in Asia), “developing countries,” “less developed countries,” and “less developed regions.”

2The Global North is home to all the members of the G8 (United States of America, Japan, Russia, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France) and to four of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Inclusive Education in Kenya

Aside from the magic its tourism board asserts, Kenya has provided for the rights and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities in the country. It has paved the way for the establishment of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities and the National Development Fund for Persons with Disabilities, fining anyone who would offend PWDs with up to twenty thousand shillings or to a year of imprisonment.

The Kenya Persons with Disabilities Act 2003 has exempted PWDs as well from paying for the recreational facilities owned or operated by the Government. Materials, articles and equipment, including motor vehicles, could also be exempted from import duty, value added tax, demurrage charges, port charges, and any other government levy if they are modified or designed for PWDs.

In the country’s courts, Kenyan PWDs do not have to pay legal fees. The latter—may they be the victim or the accused—have been entitled to free sign language interpretation, Braille services and physical guide assistance.

All television stations in Kenya shall provide for a sign language inset or sub-titles in all newscasts. All persons providing public telephone services shall install and maintain units for persons with either hearing or visual disabilities.

Kenya’s respect for the PWDs in it started as far back as 1980 when it declared the National Year for People with Disabilities. Its Ministry of Education even initiated the Educational Assessments and Resource Services to improve its services for special education students.

Four years after the Kenya Persons with Disabilities Act 2003 has been passed, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was signed. It was ratified the next year and became the basis for the National Kenyan Constitution in recognizing disability rights.

Locally, Kenya has been helped by the United Disabled Persons of Kenya (UDPK) that consists of the Kenya National Association of the Deaf, Kenya Society of the Physically Handicapped, and other organizations. It has appointed a taskforce to review the laws related to PWDs and collect the public views.

Internationally, it has five international organizations to assist PWDs: the Christian Blind Mission (CBM), the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), the Sightsavers, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, and the Leonard Cheshire Disablity.

The CBM Kenya has been working against “blinding trachoma” and aims to eliminate the disease completely by 2019. It was funded by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust carrying out surgeries, distributing antibiotics, educating communities, and improving environmental conditions to prevent trachoma.

The DREDF, first established in Berkeley, California in 1979, is a legal service center backing up disability rights. It has started the Disability and Media Alliance Project http://d-map.org/ to bring the disability community and the media industry together, and continues to shape the legal and policy strategies needed to promote its vision in the United States and worldwide.

The Sightsavers, on the other hand, believes that 80% of blindness in the world is avoidable. So it has helped the citizens of India, Africa, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Sudan, and Ghana with eye problems.

It has also assisted 13-year-old Flash Odiwuor even though he has another kind of ailment: polio. He was struck down with it and lost the use of both his legs. Only through the Sightsavers’ inclusive education program was he able to go back to school—at the Nyaburi Integrated Primary School, to be exact—along with other Kenyans who can see.

The IFES has more or less the same vision as the DREDF: it aims to empower the underrepresented. But unlike the DREDF that focuses on everything that entails a legal process, the IFES has provided technical assistance to election officials so that everyone can participate in the said political process.

The Leonard Cheshire has pioneered inclusive education strategies for girls with disability in Kenya. It has targeted 2,050 female PWDs in 50 primary schools in the Lake Region.

“I am so happy to be back at school. The headmaster gave me a wheelchair so I can now move around as much as I want.” ~ Flash Odiwuor

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Luke Sniewski

Standard label?

How could the members of the world’s largest minority be known in a variety of names?

The Philippines has officially referred to them as “disabled persons” last July 22, 1991. Section 4 of the Republic Act No. 7277 has defined them as “those suffering from restriction or different abilities, as a result of a mental, physical or sensory impairment, to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.”

Fifteen years later, though, the law that was otherwise entitled as the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons was amended and Section 4 of the Republic Act No. 9442 renamed every disabled person in the country as a “person with disability.” The title of Republic Act No. 7277 was changed to the “Magna Carta for Persons with Disability” and all references to “disabled persons” to “persons with disability”.

This must be the reason why Americans with a disability are labelled as “individuals with a disability”; Canadians and Vietnamese with a disability as “people with disabilities”; and Indians with a disability as “persons with disabilities.”

Moldovans with a disability are “invalid,” though—a portrayal that The Rhythmic Arts Project has claimed to “elicit unwanted sympathy, or worse, pity toward individuals with disabilities.” TRAP has further advised to use the terms person with a disability; people with disabilities; has a disability; or have disabilities instead.

If someone is using a wheelchair to move around, describe her as a “wheelchair user.” What some may classify as a “birth defect” or “affliction” is actually a “congenital disability” or “birth anomaly.”

There’s no need to describe someone as “a victim of [the physical condition]” when you can just say “has a [the physical condition]”. It could also be “has had [the physical condition]”; “experienced [the physical condition]”; or “has a disability as a result of [the physical condition].”

A “person with Down Syndrome” is different from a “Down’s person” or “Mongoloid” (the last two terms are simply derogatory). A “person who has epilepsy/people with seizure disorders or epileptic episodes” is also not the same as an “epileptic.”

Those that some in the society claim “the mentally ill,” “crazy,” “psycho,” or “mental case” should just be termed “people who have mental illness” or “person with a mental or emotional disorder.” Those it call “blind-hearing impaired,” “deaf-mute,” or “deaf and dumb” should be identified as “people who are blind,” “visually impaired,” “person who is hard of hearing,” “person who is deaf,” or “the Deaf.” Deafness is a cultural phenomenon and should be capitalized in this particular instance.

“The use of outdated language and words to describe people with disabilities (PWDs) contributes greatly to perpetuating old stereotypes.” ~ The Rhythmic Arts Project

Video taken from the website of the Disability Horizons

Godfrey Esperanzate Taberna: the club-footed cyclist

Like any other kid in Nueva Vizcaya in the 80s, Godfrey Taberna has wished to be a part of the province’s rich history in cycling.

“Natuto ako sa sarili kong sikap kasi nahihiya na rin ako magpahawak kasi malaki na ako noon. Sa umpisa, balancing muna. Saka naman sa pagpepedal,” shared Godfrey in an interview via Facebook.

But unlike any other kid in the town, Godfrey is club-footed. His father said it was because Godfrey’s mother used to crave for ginger when the latter was pregnant. The doctor believed, however, that it could be because of a medicine her mother should not have taken. Godfrey did not blame them, though. He believes—till now—that God has a plan for him.

Clubfoot, medically labeled as congenital talipes equinovarus (CTEV), is a general term used to describe a range of unusual positions of the foot. The foot could be pointing downwards; the foot could be pointing upwards. The foot’s heel could be smaller than normal or, in Godfrey’s case; the foot’s toe could be rotated toward the other.

“Hindi ako sumuko kahit lagi ako sumesemplang hanggang sa natututo na at maayos na ang pagba-bike. Hinihiram ko ang bike ng aking mga pinsan—yun maliit, parang semi-mountain bike lang para kapag hindi ko ma-balance, matutukod ko ang paa ko kapag tumumba.”

Early on

Godfrey was born around the time there was an ongoing war in Mindanao. His father, a soldier, had been assigned in Jolo, Sulu so his mother, a housewife, joined in the barracks.

After sometime, his father was reassigned in Luzon and Godfrey had four siblings more. Godfrey was also able to continue his studies even after his father retired. He could recount, however, how he was treated by the other children then.

“Maraming kumukutya sa akin lalo na kaparehong bata sa edad ko noon. Tiniis ko lahat ‘pag naririnig ko pangungutya. Nilalabas ko na lang sa kabilang tenga.”

That was only when Godfrey got to ask God why was he born club-footed.

When Godfrey turned high school, they moved back to Mindanao. His parents have to live within the farm given them, which was farther from where Godfrey and his three sisters live. They either have to walk around a mountain for 10 kilometres or swim in a brook for four kilometres when getting their allowances. So Godfrey strove to learn how to use a bicycle. His father eventually bought him one upon seeing him able to do so.

“Tuwang-tuwa ako kasi may sarili na akong bike. Kahit saan ako mapunta na gusto ko, mapupuntahan ko na. Hindi na rin ako mahihirapan sa pagpunta sa bukid. Malaking bagay rin ang makatipid sa pamasahe.”

Godfrey learned how to bike when he was already in college. He has also come to overcome his self-doubt amidst the rebuke he would often hear. He gained friends and learned his rights as a person, a citizen of his country, and a person with disability. He started to join in various sports such as basketball and volleyball.

Unfortunately, though, when it would be time for the important competitions, Godfrey would be excluded because of his condition.

“May konting galit sa puso ko at pagsisi sa kalagayan ko. Lahat yun ay kinimkim ko na lang at di ko na lang inilalabas. Inaamin ko, naiinggit ako sa kanila. Kung wala akong kapansanan, sana naglalaro ako ngayon. Naipapakita ko ang aking husay, napapanood ako ng maraming tao at napapalakpakan.”

But Godfrey persevered. He continued building his dream to be a cyclist that those watching in TV or reading the newspapers would know about.

“Sa una kong kompetisyon sa bayan namin, nanalo ako. Nagulat sila sa pinakita ko hanggang marami na akong naging kaibigan. Pagkatapos ko ng pag aaral ay nag-bisikleta muna ako kasi dito ako naging masaya. Nag-training kami sa Baguio, Aurora, Manila, Ilocos at at iba pa. Maraming humanga sa akin hanggang sa nagugol lahat sa pag-bibisekleta ang buhay ko.”

Godfrey Taberna (1)

He also met his wife around this time. She supported Godfrey but eventually got fed up when they have nothing anymore to sustain themselves. The situation compelled Godfrey to stop biking. He became an insurance agent, waiter, executive secretary, project manager, and encoder.

After four years, though, Godfrey stumbled across an ad from the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently Abled (PHILSPADA) looking for cyclists like him.

“Parang nabuhay ulit yun dugo ko sa sports. Nagpunta ako sa Manila, nag-present ako ng mga requirements sa PHILSPADA at naghintay ng approval ng Philippine Sports Commission. Magandang balita at natupad din ang pangarap ko na mapabilang sa mga national athletes!”

Godfrey’s first competition was in the 1st Asian Para Games held in Guangzhou, China last October 2014. He won fourth place then. It was followed by competitions in Malaysia, India, and Korea where he won silver and bronze medals. He had struggled against able-bodied athletes in the Ironman 70.3.

“Mahirap lang maging athlete lalo na sa amin na may kapansanan. Hindi pantay ang benefits sa mga able-bodied. Naghihintay rin lang ng laro para magka-allowance.”

He was also greatly challenged when his father died—not from the vehicular accident the latter was caught in but from blood loss.

“Mahirap maka-move on lalo sa isang katulad ng aking ama na siyang nagpadama ng suporta sa aking gusto. Proud na proud siya sa akin at proud na proud din ako sa kanya.”

At present, Godfrey is lobbying for a bike lane to be regulated. He believes ‘bawat nagbibisekleta ay may karapatan na hindi matakot sa daan’. He is also working in a private company in Greenhills when there are no competitions to support his wife and three children.

“Hindi ako sumuko.” ~ Godfrey Taberna

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of the GMA News and Public Affairs

Photo provided by Mr. Taberna

Ashish Goyal: the blind trader on Wall Street

How could a visually challenged guy trade on Wall Street?

Ask Ashish Goyal. He was the one diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when he turned 9. He was the one used to swim, cycle, ride horses and shoot when “balls started disappearing from his field of vision, the lines in his text books began blurring and he was tripping over things and walking into people.” He was the one who entered college with 15 friends and left with 5.

“It’s only one sense you’ve lost. Don’t look at this as a problem and sit with it. Find a solution,” his mentor and spiritual guide Balaji Tambe told him when Goyal had asked “Why me?” So Goyal worked with the ING Vysya, a privately owned Indian multinational bank based in Bangalore that has merged with the Kotak Mahindra Bank last April 1, 2015 (the combined entity will bear the name Kotak Mahindra Bank); finished his studies at the Wharton Business School, Philadelphia; and became a trader of the JPMorgan Chase & Co.

An “eternal optimist”, as he describes himself, Goyal was honored with the National Award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities by no less than President Pratibha Patil of India last December 3, 2010. He was also a recipient of the Joseph P. Wharton Award, an annual recognition to a student who symbolizes “Wharton’s way of life”.

Since he had come to believe that “a little bit of help can make a big difference,” Goyal has raised more than $50,000 over the past three years to help the underprivileged Indian children study, and the global disability research and international peace continue its mission.

To date, Goyal is a portfolio manager with the BlueCrest Capital Management Ltd., a leading macro hedge fund. The 34-year-old tennis star wanna-be still enjoys “watching sports, staying abreast of public policy and keeping an eye on human rights violations.” Goyal is also already married to a girl, “who saw him as just a regular guy with his own set of challenges”.

“The challenges are to realize where I can add value and where I don’t. You need to find your niche.” ~Ashish Goyal

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Ankit Jain