First time in Knesset’s history – debut speech given in sign language

July 13, 2021 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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A moving moment was recorded in the Knesset plenum on Monday when Member of Knesset Shirley Pinto delivered her debut speech in sign language in the Knesset plenum.

Shirley Pintoa

Pinto made history last month when she was sworn in as the first deaf MK in Israel’s history.

In a speech, Pinto promised to faithfully represent more than 1,800,000 Israeli citizens suffering from various types of disabilities.

“From an early age with my parents, I experienced firsthand the lack of awareness, and the barriers inherent in society. Despite these difficulties, I drew the worldview from values ​​that my family instilled in me. To this day they are an integral part of me,” she declared in sign language, as an interpreter read out her speech.

“I stand here before you and before the eyes of the people, but I do not stand by myself alone. By my side are 1,800,000 men and women, a boy or girl, with physical, mental, sensory, emotional disabilities and transparent diseases such as post-trauma, who fail to live here in the State of Israel full life as equal citizens. Unfortunately, the State of Israel from its inception until today, 73 years, fails to provide a proper response to people with disabilities, the same population has been rejected and is still pushed to the margins of Israeli society, the same population has become completely transparent, its voice and cry are not heard,” she said.

At the end of her speech, Pinto said that “on my behalf and on behalf of millions of Israeli citizens with disabilities, on behalf of the citizens of Israel as a whole, I pledge.”

She received stormy applause and congratulations from all members of the Knesset and her excited family in the stands.

Pinto has dedicated her life to helping deaf people and others with disabilities by co-founding the Israeli Center for Deaf Studies, lecturing deaf students at Bar-Ilan University’s Sign Language Interpreting Program, and volunteering as Ramat Gan Municipality’s adviser on disability affairs.

To accommodate Pinto’s parliamentary work, she will have a special personalized translator during Knesset sessions that will translate proceedings into sign language and that will speak in her voice using a microphone.

Her seat in the Knesset will allow her to be up-close to her translator so she can respond to comments, ask questions and speak from the podium at a moment’s notice. Her room will flash with a special light whenever the bell rings and before she is required to vote.

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