Deaf lawmaker welcomed to German parliament in historic first

The German parliament on Thursday welcomed its first deaf lawmaker, who took her place in a moment that the house’s speaker described as historic.

Heike Heubach, 44, narrowly missed out on a seat in parliament’s lower house, or Bundestag, in Germany’s 2021 election. But she joined the house this week as the replacement for Uli Grötsch, a fellow member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats from Bavaria, who took a newly created job as an independent commissioner for police issues.

Heubach, who has a background as an industrial manager, was welcomed with applause and with raised, waving hands by her fellow lawmakers.

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“Today we are actually writing history, if I may say so,” speaker Bärbel Bas told parliament. “We have the first deaf lawmaker who will work here for her constituency.”

Heike Heubach speaks at the start of the weekly parliamentary group meeting in Germany on March 19, 2024. (Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A sign language interpreter stood next to the podium to interpret for Heubach when she initially took a place in the front row, German news agency dpa reported. She later moved to a row farther back, with two interpreters sitting in front of her to convey speeches.

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Heubach will have a fixed place in the plenary hall, unlike most other lawmakers, according to the Bundestag’s administration, with interpreters located near her to interpret speeches and her questions. When she makes speeches herself, an interpreter with a microphone will have a place next to the Bundestag’s stenographers to interpret for other lawmakers.

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