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By Edgilyn Alcasid

“For they can conquer who believe they can” -Virgil


Embodying this mantra is highly evident among successful differently-abled persons. The strong will and resolve to succeed, coupled by the adage, are what pushes them to achieve their goals and conquer their disabilities. Through these components, it is therefore not surprising that many Filipinos who have impairments in sight, hearing, speaking, and those who have autism continue to succeed.


But aside from these, another essential part of their feat is the support from their loved ones and institutions who are committed to equip them with the education and training needed to thrive.


With its pledge to empower more Filipinos in Metro Manila, the Department of Science and Technology-National Capital Region (DOST-NCR) heeded the call to provide further opportunities that will turn disabilities into abilities. On May 4, 2017, it will mark a milestone in the region as the agency launches a partnership to provide a weaving technology carefully designed to address special needs.


Collaboration to empower persons with disabilities


To realize its commitment, DOST-NCR collaborated with the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) to transfer PTRI’s developed portable therapeutic handlooms.


The technology is specifically designed to engage differently-abled persons in handloom weaving as a therapeutic rehabilitation for their physical, mental, social, and vocational ability. What makes the handlooms special is that it is strategically designed for the use of paraplegic persons or those with total non-coordination of their lower extremities. It features a hand held lever so the use of treadle in interchanging heddles to lock wefts can be eliminated. The therapeutic handlooms also promotes easy weaving comprehension as it only needs eye-hand coordination for its users.


The PTRI-designed technology is likewise developed to empower those with special needs by providing opportunities where they can earn income through handloom weaving.


As the agency’s first recipient of the therapeutic handlooms in the region, DOST-NCR partnered with the Vision Shared Resources and Artistic Expression (VSA) Arts of the Philippines, Inc.


VSA, a nonprofit organization based in Quezon City, was formed in collaboration with the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) to strengthen the artistic potentials and enhance the skills of Filipino children and adults with special needs. VSA aims to empower differently-abled persons by giving them learning opportunities, trainings and jobs through skills acquisition.


Included in the programs they offer are weaving trainings and tutorials to differently-abled students so they can unleash their creativity and self-expression. However, to date, VSA only has four handlooms which are imported from Japan and Thailand and are interchangeably used by 20 students/weavers during their classes.


According to Ms. Rebecca Santos, VSA Executive Director, the imported handlooms are very expensive, and costs roughly at P60,000.00 each. Hence, it is not easy for them to buy additional pieces that can greatly assist more students. 


As a response, DOST-NCR funded the project titled, “Improving the Capacity and Productivity of Urban Weaving of St. Francis School-VSA Arts of the Philippines, Inc., thru the Fabrication of PTRI-developed Portable Therapeutic Handlooms”. Under the auspices of the project, DOST-NCR will provide 10 units of the PTRI-developed therapeutic handlooms to VSA and provide trainings on the features, operations, and maintenance of the technology. 



“If you look closely at our students, you can see how skilled and determined they are, especially in weaving. We are indeed very thankful to the assistance given by DOST-NCR as we can now support more students with special needs through the additional handlooms”, Ms. Santos said.


She added that they are greatly looking forward to showcase the products made by the students at DOST’s upcoming National Science and Technology Week exhibit in July.


The transfer and launching of the technology will be held on May 4, 2017, at the VSA school in Quezon City.


Empowerment through government support


With the innate positive disposition and determination of Filipinos, DOST-NCR’s Regional Director, Mr. Jose B. Patalinjug III, believes that differently-abled individuals can make notable marks through their own ways.


 “Our differently-abled children and fellowmen are capable of producing outputs that can be beneficial to our country’s economic development. With adequate technology, training, and opportunities, we can further empower them so they can do bigger things”, RD Patalinjug said.


He added that seeing the VSA students weaving and using the portable handlooms firsthand further affirmed his conviction that children who have special needs are capable of thriving.


“These children are truly inspiring. We from the DOST-NCR assures VSA and other similar institutions that we will continue to provide assistance to capacitate more Filipinos with special needs. In fact, we are looking at the provision of additional technology needed by VSA to assist more children and adults who are differently-abled”, RD Patalinjug remarked.


Through technology development and government support, DOST-NCR is certain that disability will no longer have to get in the way in order for those with special needs to have opportunities to succeed. Now, Filipinos who are differently-abled can continue to the break barriers on the so-called “limited access” as they strengthen their skills to further unleash their potentials. 


DOST-NCR’s strong resolve to provide opportunities to Filipinos with special needs will continue as it starts its collaboration with VSA