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Belize’s House of Representatives introduces sign language interpreters in a push for inclusivity

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Posted: Saturday, December 9, 2023. 8:06 am CST.

By Horace Palacio: In a significant move towards greater inclusivity, the Belize House of Representatives introduced sign language interpreters in its recent house meeting on December 8, 2023. This initiative is part of the Government of Belize’s (GOB) efforts to support and include the community of persons with disabilities.

Valerie Woods, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, shared details about this initiative. She explained that the introduction of certified sign language interpreters is an important step in understanding the logistics behind making House meetings more accessible to those who communicate via sign language. Woods extended her gratitude to the Cayo Deaf Institute and Ms. Christie Alemeida of the Special Education Unit from the Ministry of Education for their collaboration in this endeavor. The idea for this initiative stemmed from the experiences of the youth parliament, inspiring the House to take further steps towards inclusivity.

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families, and Indigenous People’s Affairs, praised the timing of this initiative, coinciding with the international disabilities week. She highlighted the importance of inclusivity in the nation and commended individuals like Mr. Marshall Nunez, the Disability Desk Coordinator, and Ms. Christie Alemeida for their advocacy and efforts in this field. Balderamos Garcia noted that Ms. Alemeida, who is also the director of Autism Belize, played a significant role in drafting legislation on disabilities, which is expected to be introduced shortly.

The Minister emphasized the need for public buildings to be more accessible to persons with disabilities, referencing personal experiences and the importance of making adjustments like ramps or lifts in public spaces. She also pointed out the significance of having sign language interpreters during National Assembly proceedings, making it possible for deaf persons to understand and follow the discussions.

Balderamos Garcia added that the National Assembly is considering having interpreters present at all future house meetings. This step marks a substantial progression in making governmental processes more inclusive and accessible to all members of the Belizean community, particularly those with disabilities.

The introduction of sign language interpreters in the House of Representatives is a commendable move towards inclusive governance and represents a positive change in addressing the needs of the differently-abled community in Belize.

 

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