Physically challenged but enabled and empowered. 13 deaf tour guides were recently accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to serve students and tourists in Manila’s historical spots.

The deaf tour guides’ first assignment was to shepherd 30 students from the Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD) who toured Rizal Park, National Museum, and Fort Santiago.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the program seeks to give training for deaf individuals to become tour guides for deaf visitors.

Initiated by the Office of Industry Manpower Development (DOT-OIMD) in partnership with the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), the specialized tour is the first of its kind. It was designed to provide a unique educational tour for the deaf.

“Having tour guides skilled with knowledge of sign language and an understanding of the services needed by persons with disabilities (PWDs) is a must under the DOT’s thrust for barrier-free tourism,” Sec. Romulo-Puyat said.

“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,” Sec. Romulo-Puyat said.

The DOT is geared towards conducting more similar training programs. “We’re working with the National Council on Disability Affairs. We’re identifying areas where there is a notable number of population of deaf and mute,” Sec. Romulo-Puyat said.

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

Director Nelly Dillera of the Office of Industry Manpower Development (OIMD), said that the Deaf Community Training Seminar was conducted in Manila last March that led to the accreditation of the 13 deaf tour guides.

Earlier this year, the DOT initiated an inter-agency consultation to address the facilities and infrastructure lacking in the country’s tourism establishments.

One of the identified challenges is the small number of service providers who have the skills to communicate with local and foreign tourists who are deaf.

At present, only 27 deaf tour guides have passed the rigorous training process of the DOT-OIMD. These aspiring special tour guides must successfully complete the seven-day training program based on the ‘Community Tour Guiding” module provided by the DOT.

“There are already existing institutions like the DLS-CSB that have programs like this for tourism and tour guides. We are partnering with them so that these community training programs will be implemented not only in Metro Manila but also in other regions.”, Dir. Dillera added.

Meanwhile, the DOT has coordinated with the Intramuros Administration (IA) to provide the newly-minted deaf tour guides with opportunities to serve tourists with special needs. They are all members of the Deafinite Tour Guiding Service (DTGS), a non-profit, professional organization consisting of deaf tour guides committed to deaf identity, service excellence, and professional ethics.

The DTGS educates deaf local and foreign guests about the rich Filipino culture and history and strives to make Metro Manila accessible to deaf tourists around the world. They can be contacted at numbers (+63)917 828 1300 and (+63) 966 408 1913.

In photo: Hearing-impaired tour guides accompany the students of the Philippine School for the Deaf on their tour of Manila’s historical sites. (Photo credit: Department of Tourism)