By Genalyn Kabiling
The Filipino Sign Language (FSL) is the national sign language in the country based on a new law signed by President Duterte.
In Republic Act No. 11106, the Filipino Sign Language has been declared as national sign language of the Filipino deaf as well as the official sign language of government in all transactions involving the deaf.
The law, also known as the Filipino Sign Language Act, also mandated the use of the FSL in schools, broadcast media and workplaces.
“The FSL shall be recognized, promoted, and supported as the medium of official communication in all transactions involving the deaf, and as the language of instruction of deaf education without prejudice to the use of other forms of communication depending on individual choice or preference,” the law read.
“The State shall also take all appropriate measures to ensure that the Filipino deaf can exercise the right to expression and opinion. Accordingly, the State recognizes and promotes the use of sign languages embodying the specific cultural and linguistic identity of the Filipino deaf,” it added.
Under the law, the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and other national and local government agencies involved in the education of the deaf have been tasked to start using FSL as the medium of instruction in deaf education.
The FSL will also be taught as a separate subject in the curriculum for deaf learners. The reading and writing of Filipino, as the national language, other Philippine languages, and English shall also be taught to deaf learners.
To promote licensing of deaf teachers, the Professional Regulation Commission and other teacher education programs have been directed to employ alternative assessment procedures to consider the conditions, abilities and social barriers of deaf teachers.
The learning of FSL will also be a curricular in teacher education programs. Regular training and evaluation of deaf teachers have also been ordered.
The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) has also been directed to establish a system of standards, accreditations and procedures for FSL interpreting.
RA 11106 also declared FSL as the official language of legal interpreting for the deaf in public hearings, proceedings and transactions of the courts, quasi-judicial agencies and tribunals.
It will also be the official language of the Filipino deaf employed in the civil service and in all government workplaces.
State hospitals and other health facilities must also provide access to health services, including free provision of FSL interpreters and accessible materials, to deaf patients and their families members. Private health facilities are also urged to extend the same service.
The new law also directed all national agencies and local government units to use FSL as the medium of official communication in public transactions involving the deaf. FSL interpreters and accessible materials must also be provided whenever necessary.
To guarantee access to information and freedom of expression of the deaf, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) and Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) would require FSL interpreter insets in news and public affairs programs within a year from the effectivity of the law.
The MTRCB has also been directed to take steps to promote the use of FSL in all other broadcasts and programming especially programs designed for children.
An Interagency Council has also been created to monitor and implement the new law.
The law signed on October 30, takes effect 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette or newspaper.