Gonzales: Educating Children with Disabilities of their Rights Using Digital Talking Books

DO YOU know how many children with disabilities are there in the world today? Are these children aware of their basic human rights? According to the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), there are around 200 million children with disabilities in the world who are not aware of their basic human rights, whose abilities and capacities are underestimated and whose needs are given low priority by the society.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) summarizes the rights of the child, as follows:

1. I have the right to be born, to have a name and a nationality.
2. I have the right to be free, to have a family who will take care, support and guide me.
3. I have the right to a good education, to develop my potentials and become productive.
4. I have the right to have enough nutritious food, appropriate clothing, decent and safe shelter, and be provided with adequate health services.
5. I have the right to play, leisure and recreation.
6. I have the right to be protected against abuse, from danger and violence brought about by calamities, war and conflict.
7. I have the right to live in a peaceful and healthy environment.
8. I have the right to be protected, defended and assisted by the government.
9. I have the right to express my own views, opinions and belief, and to join organizations.

By all means, these rights are also applicable to children with disabilities. In our country, we have the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities and various laws that protect the rights of Filipino children with disabilities. The Philippines also has participation in ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1990 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2008. The sad fact is that Filipino children with disabilities (CWD) and their families are still among the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in our society because parents and siblings themselves are not aware of the rights of children with disabilities.

The Autism Society Philippines became a winner of the 2011 Search for Philippine Innovative Human Rights Initiatives. The project entailed reaching out to 500 children with disabilities, their parents, siblings and teachers, and educating them of their rights using a novel method – the Digital Talking Books (DTBs).I am proud to say that in Davao City, the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao was chosen as an implementer of the said project.

Is it possible to teach children with disabilities about their basic human rights? Yes, it is. With the aid of the DAISY Digital Talking Book provided by the ASP, learning stories were developed which contained concepts on the rights of children with disabilities. DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information System consisting of fully accessible digital talking books that combine all of the features of written text and the audio recordings of the text.

The project gave a good learning experience for the children with special needs in terms of knowing their right to a good education, the right to play and rest and the right to be protected against violence and abuse.

The assessment given to the students who participated in the program proved that these rights can indeed be “taught” at any level of functionality. The program served as an eye-opener for the teachers and will thus be implemented every year as our way of promoting awareness on the rights of children with special needs.

(Jane Ann S. Gonzales is a mother of a youth with autism. She is an advocate/core member of the Autism Society Philippines and Directress of the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao, a centre for teenagers and adults with special needs. For comments or questions, please email janeanngonzales@yahoo.com)
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