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Digital talking books: An alternative way of educating children with disabilities of their rights

By Ranil Sorongon, Executive Director of Autism Society Philippines

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) recognize the inherent rights of children with disabilities (CWDs) and their full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedom on an equal basis with other children. Accordingly, CWDs need to be educated of their rights in a way that recognizes their capacities and limitations.

Believing in the potential of DAISY digital talking books[1] in supporting CWDs’ learning process in this area, the Autism Society Philippines (ASP) submitted an entry to the “Search for Innovative Philippine Human Rights Initiative” in 2011 conducted by the Ateneo Human Rights Center, Ateneo School of Government, and the Caucus of Development NGOs. The proposal entitled “Educating Children with Disabilities of Their Rights Using the Digital Books” emerged as one of the winners among the more than 200 entries. Australian Aid (AusAID) provided the funding support for the one-year project implementation that started in May 2012.

It was a daunting task for the project team, the partner schools, and therapy centers as well as the teachers of the learning sessions to implement such a novel project but the enthusiasm and commitment of the implementers fueled the group to successfully finish the project. After a year of implementation, 626 children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, AD/HD, Intellectual Disability,  Cerebral Palsy, deafness, and other disabilities acquired knowledge of their rights specifically the right to a good education, the right to play and rest, and the right to be protected against verbal and physical abuse. The total number went beyond the project’s target of 500 recipients.  Aside from this, the project team oriented 1,004 parents, siblings, teachers, and service providers on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as a means of assisting the CWDs in continuously understanding and internalizing their rights.  Twenty-seven (27) special schools and therapy centers around the country agreed to become ASP’s partners, committing to have their respective teachers conduct the learning sessions.  

The project partners and teachers unanimously agreed that one of the major impacts of the learning sessions was the immediate and sustained attention from the CWDs with the use of the digital talking books (DTBs).  As a result, it was a breeze for the teachers to motivate the CWDs in actively participating during the discussions and evaluations.  In addition, the DTBs provided the CWDs with opportunities to share personal experiences in relation to the rights presented, learn responsibilities attached to their rights, and seek solutions or alternatives if and when their rights get violated.  It also paved the way for the CWDs to assert their rights in specific situations, much to the surprise of their parents and teachers.   Even if the project has avenues for further improvement, the digital talking books have definitely brought so much hope to the children with disabilities as a medium for educating them towards their empowerment.

To sustain the efforts, ASP gave all its project partners a DVD package that contained the following: AMIS (an open source program used for playing the DTBs), the Implementation Manual, and the three (3) learning stories /DTBs both in English and Filipino versions.

ASP is looking forward to present the results of this project in local and international conferences on human rights; disability; and information, communication and technology as a means to share the technology and to promote the rights of children with disabilities.

The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

[1]               digital talking books are included in the range of technologies advocated by the International Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Consortium – more information on, accessed May 2013