May 12, 2021

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Important bill approved for the deaf community in Puerto Rico

"We are one step away from doing social justice and real integration to the deaf community."

This is how the lawyer José Juan Troche Villeneuve reacted when he reported that the Senate and the House of Representatives approved a measure that would create the Liaison Office of the Deaf Community of the Government of Puerto Rico.

Senate Bill 1486, authored by Senator Juan Dalmau, was unanimously approved by both legislative bodies, and on Thursday he left for La Fortaleza to the signature of the governor Wanda Vázquez.

"This is a historic project! If the governor signs it, then it would indeed be a truly historic event," exclaimed Troche Villeneuve.

"It would be the first time that it existed in Puerto Rico has an office to attend to the needs of the deaf community, which is in constant and genuine complaint for institutional discrimination and for issues bordering on the violation of their human rights, "he added.

Troche Villeneuv e collaborates with the "Salt for the Deaf" project of the Society for Legal Assistance (SAL).

He explained that multiple government agencies have been in breach of Law 136 since 1996, which states that all government agencies must provide resources for the deaf population, especially sign language interpreter.

"Some have it, but most do not provide these services, due to a problem of legal ignorance and that when the agency was created, it was not contemplated in their nor in their budget what they need to care for the deaf, "explained Troche Villeneuve.

" All this results in institutionalized discrimination, "

pointed out that the root of the problem lies" in the lack of a policy public that has these services. "

In that sense, he pointed out, the new office would serve as" would recommend public policy and would serve as a link between the agencies and the deaf community. "

" It would prepare and give deaf culture workshops in agencies. It would also serve as a link with the deaf for when they go to seek services, "he added.

Among other examples, Troche Villeneuve indicated that he would promote the amendment of professions through continuing education on sign language or, at least, on the Deaf culture, for service areas, such as in the Health Department.

The new office, in addition, intends to help with service management in government agencies.

"Right now, when a deaf person is going to get a birth certificate in the Demographic Registry, the process becomes an odyssey because there are no interpreters there, "he said.

" It will also help in the orientation for the deaf in matters such as Finance, legislation, moratoriums, campaigns for the hurricane season, the earthquake emergency backpack … It is a new vision of understanding and integration, "he said.

Similarly, the office would provide guidance to parents who d and deaf children who are unaware of the care and accommodations they need and to which their children have rights. It would also provide guidelines for family members of deaf people to learn sign language.

According to the project, the office would be attached to the Office of the Ombudsman for People with Disabilities (DPI), but with autonomous and economically independent operation.

Troche Villeneuve said he should have no fiscal objections from the Fiscal Oversight Board (JSF) because the service would result in more deaf people being able to join the country's workforce and economy.

"It does require some funds, but I have no doubt that the Board will understand the needs of this population and that this is a project, within the same budget, which will have an impact on 200,000 Puerto Ricans whom this office would begin to serve "

Meanwhile, Senator Juan Dalmau pointed out that there should be no problems, since the measure establishes a transition mechanism with the DPI and identifies the budget it needs to op

"Nothing prevents them from allocating funds, giving the priority that these citizens have," Dalmau said.

Meanwhile, the senator stressed that as part of the process to approve the measure, the attorney for the DPI and was in favor of the measure, so you can understand that the executive branch agrees with the bill.

He recalled that in this four-year period the projects he submitted in favor of the community were also signed into law deaf for any intervention by the authorities, whether criminal or administrative, and for the teaching of sign language in public schools.

For his part, Troche Villeneuve stressed that the unanimous vote in both bodies Legislative evidence is an indication that the "social justice" nature of the service proposed by the measure is recognized.

"If this project is signed, it would be making a gift of social justice and respect for the The human rights of the deaf community. Public policy for access and respect for deaf culture would finally be created, "said Troche Villeneuve.

" Deafness is not a disease, but only requires reasonable accommodation and understanding and respect for deaf culture. . This child who is born deaf has the ability to do whatever he wants, to develop in all professional and social spheres, "he said." He just needs his deafness to be respected. "

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