I do not know any Flemish Sign Language or Dutch. How can I communicate when going through my migration procedure?

During conversations on your migration with services provided by the government you have a right to use an interpreter to make conversations run smoothly. Communication should be made fully accessible to you. Which language for communication you opt for obviously depends on your own linguistic knowledge. Depending on your preferences you can choose to communicate in writing, speaking or signing. Then again, depending on that choice, a suitable interpreter will be booked. A speech-to-text interpreter can be booked to convert the civil servant’s spoken input into a written language that you know and vice versa. Also, a hearing Flemish Sign Language interpreter cooperating with a deaf interpreter can be made use of. In that case, the hearing interpreter will translate the civil servant’s spoken input into Flemish Sign Language, whereas the deaf interpreter will translate that signed input into your sign language, International Sign, a sign language you both share or a mixture of various sign languages, and vice versa. A deaf interpreter being present facilitates communication by offering you cultural identification, even when there is not a single sign language that both you and the deaf interpreter know.

In which settings do I have the right to use an interpreter?

In Flanders, deaf and hard-of-hearing people have the right to 3 different packages of interpreting hours: one for work settings, one for educational settings and one for private settings. These packages are resp. better known as O(V)-hours, A/S/B-hours and L-hours. O-hours can be used in education whereas VO-hours can be used in adult education only. In educational settings you have a right to as many interpreting hours as the number of hours you are being taught. A, S and B-hours are related to work settings. In the workplace you are provided with A-hours to be used, S-hours are to be used during job interviews and B-hours during vocational trainings. Each year you have the right to be supported by an interpreter during 10% of your total amount of working time. This 10% can be dubbled if necessary. With regard to job interviews you yearly have the right to 18 S-hours. In case you are attending a training program organized by VDAB, you can make use of an interpreter during all classes. L-hours are additional to the other types of hours and are meant to be used in private settings, such as family gatherings or extra courses on topics on which the government does not provide its own courses.

How do I obtain the right to interpreting hours?

In Flanders, deaf people have the right to 3 different packages of interpreting hours: one for work settings, one for educational settings and one for private settings. L-hours are to be obtained by applying for them at the VAPH (Flemish Agency for Disabled People). In order to do this you will need your identity card and a document proving your hearing loss. Once registered at the VAPH as a person with a disability, also work related interpreting hours will automatically be granted to you. The latter include A-hours (to be used in the workplace), S-hours (to be used during job interviews) and B-hours (to be used during vocational trainings which are recognized by the VDAB). Interpreting hours for educational settings can be obtained by applying for them at the educational institute at which you would like to use an interpreter; this application needs to include a document proving your hearing loss as well.

When do I have the right to use a deaf interpreter?

When you are ignorant of Flemish Sign Language but do know another sign language, you are able to use a deaf interpreter. In order to achieve more fluent communication a deaf interpreter will be useful, definitely at the beginning of your migration.

Being a deaf asylum seeker, do I also have the right to use an interpreter at work?

Yes, asylum seekers who are registered are able to obtain a professional card C after a 4-month waiting period. This card enables you to register at VDAB and, in that, obtain A-hours (to be used in the workplace), S-hours (to be used during job interviews) and B-hours (to be used during vocational trainings which are recognized by the VDAB).

Where can I meet other deaf people?

There are various deaf clubs in Flanders focusing on different target groups going from children to elderly people or involving clubs for people who share a particular interest such as traveling or LGBT. A deaf club that matches your interests can be found here.

Does a deaf club for deaf migrants exist?

There is no particular deaf club generally focusing on deaf people with an immigration background. However, the association ‘15 Post Soviet by Deaf People in Belgium’ focuses on deaf and hard-of-hearing Eastern Europeans who have migrated to Belgium. The association organizes activities every two or three months. It aims to give those people the opportunity to meet one another, exchange experiences and have access to their native language and culture once again. This is its (private) facebookpage.

Also, there is an association named AYA which focuses on deaf muslims in Belgium. Within the association learning about the Islam religion is being made accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing people. AYA aims at providing them with social support, and ease their access to culture and spirituality by offering conventions and trainings that meet their needs as well as creating video material (lexicon, videos, …).

What is an identity card?

An identity card proves that you have been entered into the National Registry. This card is an important document you should always carry with you as soon as you are 12 years of age or older. Your identity card mentions your social security number which is needed, among others, to apply for interpreting hours in private settings. You can apply for an identity card at city hall in the place where you are residing. However, there are manu conditions you must meet in order to apply for one.

More information