Making tourism accessible to deaf

DE La Salle-College of Saint Benilde School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies alumni and newly accredited Department of Tourism deaf tour guides accompanied the students of the Philippine School for the Deaf around Manila’s historical destinations.

Through the initiative of the Department of Tourism (DoT) in partnership with the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), the deaf and hard of hearing can now appreciate what Manila has to offer through the first-ever specialized tour by DoT’s newly accredited Deaf Tour Guides.

The collaboration was in line with Republic Act 7277: An Act Providing for the Rehabilitation, Self-Development and Self-Reliance of Disabled Persons and their Integration which stresses that “the state shall develop their (PWDs) skills and potentials to enable them to compete favorably for available opportunities.”

This program was made possible in collaboration with DLS-CSB’s School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies (SDEAS) Center for Partnership and Development (CPD) headed by CPD deaf career coach Veronica Camba, which aims to “build internal and external partnerships that will facilitate deaf employment, livelihood, awareness, training, advocacy and activities and other agreements that lead to inclusion.”

ONE of the 13 newly accredited deaf tour guides going around with students.

“Here in CPD, we focus on always finding the perfect match between an organization and the deaf. It could be in terms of employment, advocacy, entrepreneurship or other services,” Camba emphasized.

She further explained that SDEAS-CPD filters and screens applicants and coaches them though orientations.

In a statement released by the DoT, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the project seeks to give training for deaf individuals to become tour guides for deaf visitors.
“Having tour guides skilled with the knowledge of sign language and an understanding of the services needed by persons with disabilities is a must under the DoT’s thrust for barrier-free tourism. Not only will this provide quality service to tourists with special needs, but more importantly, this will create opportunities, which are the very essence of an inclusive tourism industry,” she expounded.

DEAF tour guides Catherine Ballen (left) and Shiela Tenorio (right).

Puyat added that the DoT is currently working with the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) as it looks forward to conduct similar training programs. Department of Tourism Office of Industry Manpower Development director Nelly Dillera shared that their office is currently working with DLS-CSB to widen the range of community trainings and hopefully implement it in other regions.

After a meticulous screening process from the end of SDEAS-CPD, aspiring tour guides had to complete a rigorous seven-day Deaf Community Training Seminar based on the Community Tour Guiding module provided by the DoT. After a week of studying the important history behind Manila’s hotspots and sharpening required skillsets for the post, the 13 trainees, all DLS-CSB SDEAS alumni, successfully finished the workshop and are now authorized tour guides.

THESE tour guides are skilled in sign language and know the services needed by persons with disabilities.

They are the pioneer members of the Deafinite Tour Guiding Service, a non-profit, professional organization consisting of DoT-accredited deaf tour guides committed to their deaf identity, service excellence and professional ethics. The group aims to make tourism in Manila accessible to deaf guests, both foreign and local, by imparting everything Filipino through sign language. As their first fieldwork, they assisted 30 students from the PSD during an inclusive tour around the capital’s top destinations such as Rizal Park, National Museum and Fort Santiago.

They are Catherine Ballen, Shiela May Tenorio, Mona Liza Arienza, Cecile Ruth Arreola, Marie Justine Castro, Brion King Lasutaz, John Melvin Orevillo, Emerson Tabunan, Jeremiah Viernes, Christine Ella Castañeda-Nallos, John Alexis Abad, Jeanalyn Umali and Jamilla Angela Angela Aquino.

Ballen, one of the deaf tour guides, recalled how her interest was piqued when SDEAS called for trainees through a Facebook post.

“SDEAS gives career opportunities for the deaf and by letting us apply through email and social media, we were able to train under DoT and obtain the position as tour guides,” she beamed. “This initiative is a great introduction on the success of the deaf community.”

Meanwhile, Tenorio, another member, considered this newfound career path as a blessing. “I feel really great because I was chosen to be part of it. It really helped me be more confident in interacting with other people and it’s such an honor to help my fellow deaf,” she noted. “This milestone allowed us deaf interpreters to help deaf students to learn more about our own history and develop nationalism.”

SDEAS-CPD has likewise partnered with institutions and companies such as hospitality giants Shangri-La Hotel Makati and Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila; the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited; leading global advisory, broking and solutions company Willis Towers Watson; business process outsourcing services companies Accenture and [24]7; creative design agency Bluethumb, and food chains Subway, Teriyaki Boy and Elait Rolled Ice Cream. It continues to expand its network to offer and explore more career opportunities for the deaf community.

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