For empowering the Deaf, OML Center receives INSPIRE Award for Disability-Inclusive Climate Action at 4th Lagerway Awards

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For empowering the Deaf, OML Center receives INSPIRE Award for Disability-Inclusive Climate Action at 4th Lagerway Awards

The Communication Foundation for Asia (CFA) bestowed the INSPIRE Award for Disability-Inclusive Climate Action to the Oscar M. Lopez Center on May 10 at its 4th Lagerwey Awards for “empower[ing] the deaf to co-produce and participate in climate discourse by developing and mainstreaming the Filipino Sign Language lexicon for climate and disaster-related signs”.

In collaboration with the Gerry Roxas Foundation, the INSPIRE award is given to civil society organizations who have shown exemplary work in biodiversity conservation. OML Center Knowledge Production Manager Ayn Torres and Project SIGND lead Carolyn Dagani received the citation named after Dutch missionary Fr. Cornelio Lagerwey, MSC, who, with his mission partner Genaro V. Ong, wanted to use media production and training to spiritually uplift and empower people.

For two years now, the OML Center, in partnership with Deaf-led organizations, has been carrying out “Climate Resilience of the Deaf: Signs for Inclusive Governance and Development” or Project SIGND. This initiative seeks to increase the preparedness and adaptive capacities of the Deaf to climate-related risks and disasters by developing Filipino Sign Language (FSL) lexicon for climate and disaster terms, improving communication and networking skills through capacity building, and enabling the Deaf to participate in policy-making. The project is supported by a grant from the United States Agency for International Development, through the Gerry Roxas Foundation.

“This symbolizes our success. It proves that people can,” says Dagani, who is Deaf. “This is just a trailblazing project, and none has been done in history that focuses on Deaf people alone.”

“As we develop the FSL signs for climate change, it will really help the educational sector as well as the interpreters, so that Deaf people will have more access when it comes to watching television [and] to encourage Deaf people to really make this part of our daily discourse and also to include Deaf people in making decisions to empower them,” she adds.

Having Deaf and hearing people working together on one project also makes Project SIGND pioneering. “It is a win-win situation for both parties, and this is what you really mean by inclusion,” Dagani says. “In the previous years, government has made a lot of wrong decisions about Deaf people when it comes to policies and laws because they have no exposure to Deaf people.”

For Torres, the work they do at Project SIGND is urgent. “The impacts of climate change have more and more been experienced by everyone, and at an alarmingly increasing scale in terms of frequency and magnitude. One of the Project’s key findings is that the Deaf have very little adaptive capacity to these disaster events because climate change adaptation strategies and disaster response is far from being inclusive for persons with disabilities. Apart from communication barriers between the Deaf and the “service providers” in authority, current early warning systems are mostly designed as sound-based, such as sirens and megaphone announcements, rendering the Deaf unable to respond in time,” she says.

She adds, “Our founder, Oscar M. Lopez, always emphasized that the essence of the Center is to make climate science actionable to ‘save lives and take our people out of harm’s way’. This is the very essence of the Project as well—to ensure that everyone is included, that no one is left behind.”

Watch the replay of the 4th Lagerwey Awards at the CFA Facebook Page:

For more detailed information about Project SIGND and to download the Project’s latest policy briefs, visit the website of the OML Center at