Something remarkable happened in Austria this week.
The Greens' Helene Jarmer was sworn in on Friday as the first deaf member of the Austrian Parliament. She is the second deaf person in world history to be elected to a national parliament (after Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen of South Africa).
Jarmer became deaf at the age of two, as the result of an accident. She graduated from the Technical High School and taught at the National Institute for the Deaf and at the University of Vienna. She is now the authority on teaching and learning in this field.
In the past she accomplished the constitutional acceptance of sign language, but she also stands up for bilingual instruction (sign language and written language).
Helene Jarmer made her first address in sign language, which an interpreter put into German. Jarmer gave a report on disability issues and an orientation lesson in sign language.
From now on six sign language interpreters will in turns translate every parliamentary session. Additionally, an interpreter will make her speech audible for the audience via microphone.
A short excerpt from her first address:
You might be thinking about how you might be able to work together
with me. I am deaf. I hear nothing. I really hear nothing at all, so
shouting won't help. I won't be able to hear it. Please go ahead and
speak clearly, not in an exaggerated way, but slowly. Please maintain
eye contact with me. That's very important for me. How can you get
in contact with me?--By text messaging, by e-mail or instant
messaging, and you can also call me on the telephone. I have an
interpreter for that, just as we are doing here. It's simple. [All this so
that we can be in contact with each other.] [Applause.] I know that I
always tend to sign too quickly and I have to learn how to pause
On Youtube you can see her speech, but it's in German, of course, and the quality is very poor.