Signs for Inclusive Governance and Development Project (Project SIGND)

Two Deaf women share their experience of a strong typhoon, wherein they witnessed fish being swept by the typhoon into their house, while their roof and windows were damaged by the waves of water coming in from the sea.
Two Deaf women share their experience of a strong typhoon, wherein they witnessed fish being swept by the typhoon into their house, while their roof and windows were damaged by the waves of water coming in from the sea.



The UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights recognized that persons with disabilities are affected by climate impacts “differently and more severely than others.” This is compounded by the fact that most disaster management interventions are “usually designed for people without disabilities who can rely on walking, running, seeing, hearing or quickly responding to instructions” (National Council on Disability, 2005, as cited in Raja & Narasimhan, 2013).

In 2019, it was noted1 that “only one of ten Filipinos with disability is able to access programs and services”, especially social protection programs “in a way that effectively transfers risks. In some cases where services do reach them, these are likely to be of low quality and are not responsive to their specific needs”.

From a policy perspective, although the Filipino Sign Language (FSL) Act of 2018 has declared FSL as the national as well as the official sign language of government in all transactions involving the Deaf, mandating all State agencies, entities and instrumentalities to ensure full communication and information access to the Deaf, effective participation in planning and decision making is still lacking. The Magna Carta for Disabled Persons (RA 7277) and other disability laws have been found to be non-compliant with the rights-based model of the UNCRPD2.

In support of the recommendations of the UN for disability-inclusive climate action (2020), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Gerry Roxas Foundation (GRF), awarded the Oscar M. Lopez (OML) Center a grant for the implementation of the project “Climate Resilience of the Deaf: Signs for Inclusive Governance and Development” or Project SIGND. In partnership with Deaf-led organizations, the project seeks to increase the preparedness and adaptive capacities of the Deaf to climate-related risks and disasters by increasing access to and participation in hearing-led programs on climate action and DRRM, while strengthening policies and capacitating key policymakers, implementors, Deaf advocates and Hearing champions towards more inclusive governance and resilience building.

The project’s critical components or strategic approaches are:

  1. empowering the Deaf to co-produce and participate in climate discourse through
    • the development and documentation of Filipino Sign Language (FSL) lexicon for climate-, disaster- and related signs and corresponding inclusive informational materials and channels, and 
    • capacity building programs to improve the discursive skills and community networking abilities of the Deaf and of relevant service providers; and 
  2. empowering the Deaf to participate in policy making and programming through a system-wide review of the government’s national plans and policies for climate action, DRRM, cultural protection and human rights towards the institutionalization of Deaf-informed policies and practices through co-production and effective participation.

By developing FSL into a powerful tool for access and participation in government programs and services, the project will not only “facilitate targeted action” but “drive system change” – the two strategic objectives of the USAID Climate Change Strategy – as it not only responds to the humanitarian needs and concerns (targeted action) of the Deaf community as persons with disabilities but also addresses their linguistic and human rights (system change)  as a cultural community, as promulgated by the UNCRPD. The language barrier translates to a host of inaccessibilities such as to education, employment, health and welfare services, social justice and the justice system, etc. At deeper levels, it translates to linguistic oppression, cultural stigma and prejudice.

The project’s greater aim is to show that the Deaf can be more than mere victims of disasters and recipients of relief efforts, but as actors in disaster preparedness and resilience building. It is a simple solution to let the Deaf participate, let the Deaf act, and let the Deaf use their language.

Partner organizations include:

  • Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD) – umbrella organization of all Deaf POs (DPOs) in the Philippines and the local counterpart of the World Federation of the Deaf 
  • Parabukas Pte. Ltd. – a legal and policy consultancy on climate change, the environment, and sustainable development
  • Filipino Sign Language National Network (FSLN2) – an ad hoc online forum for Deaf and hearing individuals to discuss FSL and RA 11106
  • Deaf Disaster Assistance Team-Disaster Risk Reduction (DDAT-DRR) – DPO that builds capacity of Deaf communities on emergency preparedness
  • Dumaguete Effata Association of the Deaf (DEAF), Inc. – DPO working on the socio-cultural growth of the Deaf community
  • Deaf Accessibility Network of the Philippines (DANP) – Deaf accessibility in technical and media access by promoting the integration of Filipino Sign Language (FSL) in all possible media platforms in the Philippines

PUBLICATIONS

The following publications are made possible through the technical support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Gerry Roxas Foundation’s INSPIRE project. The contents of the publications are the sole responsibility of OML Center and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Policy Brief 1

Making the Count Matter: The Importance of Disaggregated Data for Persons with Disabilities 

This policy brief discusses the current policy landscape relating to collection of data on persons with disabilities in the Philippines, and its importance in relation to climate action and governance. It lays out the challenges existing from local to national levels, and presents recommendations that were developed through multi-stakeholder consultations.

The policy brief is the first in a series of five policy briefs that will be published by Project SIGND, and it was written and prepared by Isabella Ann Mendoza, Angelika Lourdes Pizarro, and Cecilie Therese Guiao of Parabukas, and Rommel Lo of Deaf, Inc., with the guidance of other members of Project SIGND’s Work Programme 2.

Policy Brief 2

What Inclusive Education Means for d/Deaf Learners in the Philippines 

This policy brief discusses the current state-of-play of Deaf education in the Philippines, and the gaps and challenges in extending inclusivity to the Filipino Deaf community in the context of education. The report also presents recommendations that were developed through multi-stakeholder consultations.

The policy brief is the second in a series of five policy briefs that will be published by Project SIGND, and it was written and prepared by Isabella Ann Mendoza, Angelika Lourdes Pizarro, and Cecilie Therese Guiao of Parabukas, and Rommel Lo of Deaf, Inc., with the guidance of other members of Project SIGND’s Work Programme 2. 

Policy Brief 3

Addressing the Intersectionalities of Climate Change: Impacts on Women, Women with Disabilities, and d/Deaf Women

This policy brief discusses the critical intersectionality of women, women with disabilities, and most specifically, d/Deaf women, and their rights in the context of climate change and disaster risk reduction. The brief also presents recommendations that were developed through multi-stakeholder consultations.

The policy brief is the first in a series of five policy briefs that will be published by Project SIGND, and it was written and prepared by Isabella Ann Mendoza, Angelika Lourdes Pizarro, and Cecilie Therese Guiao of Parabukas, and Rommel Lo of Deaf, Inc., with the guidance of other members of Project SIGND’s Work Programme 2.

Policy Brief 4 

Moving Towards Greater Representation of Persons with Disabilities in Climate Change Decision-Making: Where we are and how it can be improved 

This policy brief discusses the current state of disability representation in the climate negotiations based on observations from the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP28) held in 2023. The brief outlines recommendations for the improvement of accessibility and inclusion in future climate dialogues at the local and international levels.

The policy brief is the fourth in a series of five policy briefs that will be published by Project SIGND, and it was written and prepared by Isabella Ann Mendoza, Angelika Lourdes Pizarro, Keith Sigfred Ancheta, and Cecilie Therese Guiao of Parabukas, and Rommel Lo of Deaf, Inc., with the guidance of other members of Project SIGND’s Work Programme 2.

Policy Brief 5

The Climate Realities of the Deaf: Evidence from a Climate Vulnerability Assessment of the Filipino Deaf Community

This policy brief synthesizes the key findings of the Climate Vulnerability Assessment on the Filipino Deaf community conducted under Project SIGND, highlighting challenges faced by the Deaf in the context of climate change including those relating to accessibility, education, health, and livelihood. The brief presents policy recommendations to address these barriers and increase the resilience of the Deaf in the Philippines. 

The policy brief is the fifth in a series of five policy briefs that will be published by Project SIGND, and it was written and prepared by Angelika Lourdes Pizarro, Isabella Ann Mendoza, Keith Sigfred Ancheta, and Cecilie Therese Guiao of Parabukas, and Rommel Lo of Deaf, Inc., with the guidance of other members of Project SIGND’s Work Programme 2.

Technical Report 1 

Towards d/Deaf-inclusive Climate Action and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management: A Governance and Political Environment Analysis of the Philippines 

This technical report presents the findings of a governance and political environment analysis on the state of Deaf-inclusion in the Philippines. It presents key insights on existing laws and policies relating to climate change, disaster risk reduction and management, persons with disabilities affairs, and laws relating to use and promotion of Filipino Sign Language, and outlines key stakeholders with relevant mandates and recommended actions towards addressing existing gaps and barriers. Finally, the report proposes a roadmap for Deaf inclusion that can be pursued towards improving Deaf-inclusion and access in the country.

This report was written and prepared by Isabella Ann Mendoza, Angelika Lourdes Pizarro, and Cecilie Therese Guiao of Parabukas, and Rommel Lo of Deaf, Inc., with the guidance of other members of Project SIGND’s Work Programme 2.


*This briefer is made possible by the generous support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this briefer are the sole responsibility of the OML Center and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

1 Manlapaz and Center for Disaster Preparedness (2019, October 3).  Making the Invisible Visible: The Significance of an Integrated Data Management System for Persons with Disabilities at National Level. [Paper presentation]. 14th National Conference on Statistics. Philippine Statistics Authority, Quezon City. 

2 Cobley, D. S. (2015). “Typhoon Haiyan one year on: Disability, poverty and participation in the Philippines.” Disability and the Global South, 2 (3), pp. 686-707.