Christian Democrats request sign language interpreters in Brussels Parliament
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Christian Democrats request sign language interpreters in Brussels Parliament

Photo from the office of Bianca Debaets

Members of Christian Democrat parties CD&V and cdH are asking Brussels to include sign language interpreters or a subtitling system for the plenary sessions of Parliament.

Bianca Debaets (CD&V) and Céline Fremault (cdH) put forth the initiative yesterday.

“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 written letters in the past to Brussels parliamentary chairman Rachid Madrane and Flemish Community Commission (FCC) chairman Fouad Ahidar, asking for sign language interpreters and/or a subtitling system.

“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 other governmental bodies in Belgium, such as the Flemish and Walloon Parliaments and the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, have set a positive example that the Brussels Parliament should emulate.

“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 echoed the sentiment, saying it was a chance for Brussels 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 that the proposal was met with a positive response from the President of Parliament and others, and that they plan to investigate how to effectively deploy sign language interpreters or subtitles.

“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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