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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Editorial: Opening the Web to the disabled

DOMINATING current public discourse is the viral controversy stirred up by college students who failed to recognize Apolinario Mabini. The “Sublime Paralytic” and the “brains and conscience of the Philippine Revolution” was a major character in the popular and critically accepted film, “Heneral Luna.”

Overshadowed were events like the 2015 Apolinario Mabini Awards, which recognized outstanding persons with disability (PWDs) and advocates promoting the rights and welfare of PWDs during a Sept. 29 ceremony held at the Malacañang Palace.

Another event was the Techno Arts Camp for Climate Change, a 10-day workshop infusing arts and technology for advocacy work on climate change, which led to the graduation of 45 eco advocates, including 30 PWDs.

Though varying in their claims to the public’s attention, the three events highlight the impact of technology on PWDs.

Free to navigate

“Web accessibility” means that PWDs can interact freely on the Web, including contribute content. According to the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) website, www.w3.org, this advocacy means breaking the visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological barriers that impede PWDs from exploring and benefitting from online interactions.

Web accessibility also includes other vulnerable sectors, such as people facing learning challenges due to lack of education, advancing age, poverty, and temporary disability.

As a resource offering limitless opportunities for growth, self-reliance and change, the Internet should be included in the portals where equal access and opportunity should be granted to PWDs, asserts the WAI.

Digital literacy

The viral controversy over some students’ failure to recognize Mabini in a movie about the Philippine Revolution is directing the attention of stakeholders to the need to review and improve the education of youths on Philippine studies.

Related to this is the need to reevaluate the use of digital media in formal and informal education. During the recent National Literacy Conference held in Cebu, a Department of Education official highlighted the need to also focus on “new types of literacy,” including digital media, to make graduates more competitive and adept in responding to social changes, reported Sun.Star Cebu’s Justin K. Vestil.

Web accessibility can be a tool for not just improving people’s awareness of and appreciation for PWDs, but also be wielded to “help people with disabilities more actively participate in society,” asserts the WAI.

Social movers

Among the 2015 Apolinario Mabini Awardees recognized by the Philippine Foundation for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled (PFRD) are PWDs Liwanag Caldito and Victor Francesco Cham. The PWD Filipino of the Year Award was given to Caldito, whose work with students with disability as a special education (Sped) teacher is made even more challenging by his personal battle with Parkinson’s disease, reports Inquirer.net.

Diagnosed with autism, Cham earns a living as a graphic arts designer. The model employee of the Unilab Foundation received a special award from PFRD, according to Inquirer.net.

Recognizing the power of art and technology for “inclusive, transformative education of vulnerable groups,” the Unesco Dream Center/Artists for Peace brought together PWDs, students, Sped and alternative learning system (ALS) teachers, out-of-school youths and other stakeholders in the Techno Arts Camp, reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Oct. 4.

The Camp introduced the participants to digital media and multimedia storytelling, which can be tapped for improving their work and other social interactions, as well as incorporating concern for the ecology in their advocacies. For instance, Sped and ALS teachers saw the usefulness of video clips in aiding the learning of their students, who are challenged by disability or advancing age.

By addressing web accessibility, stakeholders can merge the traditional (literacy) and the new (digital media) to open channels to PWDs for their personal growth and social advocacy. In the digital age, transforming PWDs into Netizens is one course for bridging the digital divide.
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