For the first time in Israel’s history, a deaf member of Knesset was sworn in Wednesday morning using sign language.
Shirley Pinto, 32, from the Yamina party was allowed to enter the Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s new government thanks to the Norwegian Law, which allowed her to replace Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana.
The law allows ministers to give up their positions as members of parliament in order to enable a different member of their party to assume the position in their place.
In recent days, MK Pinto met with Knesset Secretary Yardena Meller-Horowitz, as well as experts from the Knesset’s Technology and Computing Division, in order to find and implement technological solutions that will help her carry out her daily work.
They decided that MK Pinto would be accompanied by an interpreter to translate what was said into sign language. The interpreter would also serve as Pinto’s voice via a microphone connected to the plenum's main sound system.
It was also agreed that Pinto will receive a special seat that would allow her to see the translator up close, be involved in the events in the plenum in real time, respond during Knesset readings and ask questions.
A special light bulb will be installed in Pinto’s office, which will blink to signify the beginning of a vote in the plenum.
Shortly after Pinto’s swearing-in, Bennett posted a welcoming message on his Twitter page: “One of the most exciting moments for me. For all of us. Shirley Pinto, the first deaf MK in Israel, declares allegiance. Dear Shirley, I am so proud of you."
Prior to her entry into politics, Pinto was a social activist working to promote deaf rights and advised Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen on issues relating to disability and accessibility.
Pinto later joined Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked's New Right party, which later morphed into Yamina, ahead of the April 2019 election.
The Ruderman Family Foundation, which works to support people with disabilities in Israel and the U.S., welcomed the investiture of Pinto - a former member of their staff.
“We’re delighted to see Shirley Pinto enter the halls of power and be a force of positive change,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the foundation.
“I’m confident she will be a strong voice for inclusion and accessibility for those with disabilities. I applaud Yamina and the new government for warmly welcoming her. Shirley [joins] Karine Elharrar, the first Israeli minister with disabilities. I know both Shirley and Karine will work to improve the inclusion of 20% of the Israeli population- people with disabilities."