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Christian Democrats want more inclusion for the deaf community in Brussels Parliament

sign language interpreter works on the stage
Photo: Dreamstime

Members of the Christian Democrat parties asked for sign language interpreters or a subtitling system be included in sessions of Brussels Parliament.

Bianca Debaets (CD&V) and Céline Fremault (cdH) put forth the motion for government to be more inclusive to the hearing disabled community, reported The Brussels Times.

“In just about all other assemblies in our country, sign language or subtitles are already provided during topical questions,” Debaets said in a statement.

“As the Brussels Parliament, we should follow these good examples so that deaf and hard of hearing people can also be involved in parliamentary work.”

Debaets has repeatedly written letters to Brussels parliamentary chairman Rachid Madrane and Flemish Community Commission (FCC) chairman Fouad Ahidar, asking for this service.

“That system should at least be put in place for the topical questions in the plenary session,” said Debaets.

“Currently, these sessions are already broadcast live online, and that should continue after the health crisis. If we really want to move towards a fully inclusive society, we must not forget the hard of hearing.”

Debaets pointed out that governmental bodies in Belgium, such as the Flemish and Walloon Parliaments and the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, have these services available already and that the Brussels Parliament should follow their lead.

“If we move towards a system of subtitling, I think we could also enjoy a wider audience,” said Debaets.

“A lot of people watch videos on their smartphones without turning the sound on, so they would still be able to follow the debates.”

Fremault believes this is an opportunity for Parliament to set an example of inclusion and accessibility.

“More than 10 percent of the population in our country has a disability. We must not forget these people when it comes to our democratic work,” said Fremault.

Debaets said their motion was met with positivity from the President of Parliament and other members, and they are now researching the most effective method to launch the initiative.

“One of the possibilities is that we would involve students in this, so that they can already gain valuable professional experience,” Debaets said.

“[Céline Fremault] also suggested setting up a broader working group on inclusion and accessibility, so that all Brussels residents with disabilities could be better involved in our work. We can only welcome that.”

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