MANILA -- Thirteen new deaf tour guides, who underwent training in March, were accredited this month, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said Wednesday.

The accreditation was in line with the DOT's bid for a barrier-free tourism that also caters to the needs of persons with disabilities (PWDs) traveling around the country.

All tour guides accredited were members of the Deafinite Tour Guiding Service (DTGS), a non-profit professional organization consisting of deaf tour guides committed to deaf identity.

Last Saturday, the newly-minted guides shepherded 30 students from the Philippine School for the Deaf to Manila’s historical spots, including Rizal Park, National Museum, and Fort Santiago.

The specialized tour was initiated by the DOT-Office of Industry Manpower Development (OIMB), in partnership with the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB).

Tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat stressed that having tour guides with knowledge of sign language and an understanding of the services needed by PWDs "is a must under the DOT’s thrust for barrier-free tourism."

"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,” she said.

Puyat said the DOT seeks to conduct more training programs in partnership with the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA).

“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,” she said.

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 training process of the DOT-OIMD.

"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," DOT-OIMD Director Nelly Dillera said. (PNA)