World Health Organization (WHO) estimates show that there are 250 million persons worldwide with disabling hearing impairment in 2000, this comprises about 4.2% of the world’s population and 2/3 of which comes from developing countries such as Singapore, Thailand and Philippines among others.

In terms of age category, the WHO estimates showed that among the 250 million, 222 million comprise the adult population while those under the age of 15 were at 28 million.  Prevalence of hearing impairment has been increasing for the past years. In 1985, the incidence of hearing loss was at 42 million and in 1995, it increased to 120 M worldwide while the latest survey done in 2001 showed a further 10 increase to 280 million cases of individuals with hearing loss.

One of the most recent surveys done on hearing impairment/loss among Filipinos is the Philippine Disability Survey which is a collaborative study which aims to determine the prevalence of disability in the country, distribution according to age and sex and type of disability and status of rehabilitation and rehabilitation needs.  The study categorized disabilities into moving, speaking, hearing, mental and seeing.  Prevalence of different types of disability by age groups showed that disability was most prevalent among the following age groups: 70 and above, 60-69 and 50-59.

Members of the Deaf community tend to view deafness  as a difference in human experience rather than a disability.  The community may include family members of deaf people and sign-language interpreters who identify with Deaf culture and does not automatically include all people who are deaf or hard of hearing.   According to Anna Mindess, “it is not the extent of hearing loss that defines a member of the Deaf community but the individual’s own sense of identity and resultant actions.”   As with all social groups that a person chooses to belong to, a person is a member of the Deaf community if he or she “identifies him/herself as a member of the Deaf community, and other members accept that person as a part of the community.”

Impairment or disability discrimination is treating you unfairly or badly because of your impairment. Discrimination such as this may be unlawful depending on the circumstances.  Discrimination on the basis of impairment can happen at work, school or college, in a public venue in a shop or a restaurant, looking for accommodation, buying property, applying for credit, insurance or a loan, or dealing with tradespeople, businesses or state or local government.

From 1 October 2010, the Equality Act replaced most of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). However, the Disability Equality Duty in the DDA continues to apply.  Countries who had passed laws aimed at reducing discrimination against people with disabilities are Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United States of America and Pakistan.

In the Philippines, National Council on Disability Affairs promulgated Republic Act No. 7277.  An act providing for the rehabilitation , self development and self reliance of disabled person and their integration into the mainstream of society and for other purposes, enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress.

Discrimination arises primarily from prejudice; it is an emotional response to perceived threats and discomforts that cannot be rationally justified.  Discrimination against the disabled, at work and outside, social researchers feel, is primarily a social problem.  Entrenched in the thought processes and attitudes of society, it owes its origins to historical, social, cultural, and economic causes.  While most people appear to agree that discrimination against the disabled is abhorrent and has no place in modern societies, its continuance leads to concerns, both about the sincerity of such adopted positions, as well as about effective measures to reduce and eliminate the problem.

National and public government should disseminate information to further develop human mind on accepting and helping disabled people.  It can be in the society or schools where they can start providing such knowledge to eliminate barriers between hearing and non hearing, even other special conditions.

By: Ms. Aileen L. Lumaban | Teacher I | Limay National High School | Limay, Bataan

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