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Federal parliament welcomes deaf and hard of hearing as sign language is introduced at sitting

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Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS): Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Honourable Dr. Terrance Drew hand signed “good morning” to four special guests who sat in the gallery of the National Assembly for the first time when parliament convened on Tuesday, April 04.

The four persons are members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community who came to celebrate the introduction of sign language, which will now be a regular feature of the sitting and broadcast of the House. Speaker of the National Assembly, the Honourable Lanein Blanchette, welcomed the special guests expressing hope that the “efforts of inclusion” are welcomed.

Belisha Clarke signed her excitement about being at today’s session.

“We felt really appreciative with the deaf people being welcomed in Parliament,” she said. “The Prime Minister came to meet us. He signed good morning, and it made me truly happy to see the Prime Minister, and I hope that the ministry can teach other people sign language also.”

Ms. Clarke was supported by Itesha Nicholls. Both said that they were “truly happy” with today’s proceedings and expressed their desire to communicate more with the Prime Minister via hand signing.

Senator, the Honourable Isalean Phillip, indicated that the government will continue to take action to promote and protect the rights of the differently-abled and encouraged society to join in this effort.

Ms. Clarke shared several priorities that affect the deaf and hard-of-hearing community that society should move to address.

“Deaf people truly need homes and [help] searching for work, and they are having difficulties with their driving license,” she stated, through a sign language interpreter, adding that communicating with doctors, at the hospital, and even at police stations is a challenge.

The pair said that they, and other persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, will continue to follow parliamentary sittings in the future by attending or watching the broadcast on television.

The introduction of sign language follows on the heels of its inclusion at the Prime Minister’s Press Conference with Cabinet Ministers held on March 30, 2023.

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