One inspirational deaf Maltese girl is determined to become Malta’s first hearing-impaired MP – and her perseverance to do so might just lead to a change in the way parliamentary debates are broadcast around the island.
Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli announced that after meeting Melissa Aquilina, the winner of #TakingTheLead, a leadership skills based competition, she will be calling for sign language translation to accompany major debates on Parliament TV.
“An inspiring leader, 15-year-old Melissa Aquilina, the competition winner of the ‘Be the British High Commissioner and President of Malta for a day’. Being deaf didn’t stop her dream. Will discuss with Speaker of the House to have sign language on Parliamentary TV when discussing important reforms,” Farrugia Portelli tweeted after she met Melissa.
An inspiring leader.15yr old #MelissaAquilina, competition winner ‘Be the #BritishHighCommissioner & #PresidentOfMalta foraday’. Being deaf didn’t stop her dream. Will discuss with #Speaker to have sign language on ParliamentaryTV when discussing important reforms @BHCStuartGill pic.twitter.com/XORBMggYds
— Julia Farrugia Portelli (@JuliaFarrugia) March 8, 2019
During her visit to Castille, where Farrugia Portelli briefly spoke to Aquilina in sign language, the 15-year-old was introduced to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and also met President Marie Louise Coleiro-Preca during the day.
A young leader was born today. 15 year old Melissa Aquilina met @JuliaFarrugia and @helenadalli to discuss the issues facing the deaf community and suggest policies that could improve their lives. @JosephMuscat_JM also had warm words for her courage. #TakingTheLead @foreignoffice pic.twitter.com/8lZ7q9O78T
— UK in Malta ???????????????? (@UKinMalta) March 8, 2019
Melissa has been open about living with deafness, speaking about it in social media posts
“I am a deaf person. I wake up every day with a vibrator alarm or a light signal, which sometimes becomes intolerable. Yes, I am a deaf person. I watch TV, not with sound but with subtitles, or by watching an interpreter. Yes, I am a deaf person.”
“When I am moving or on a lunch break, alone with my friends on Facebook, phone, Facetime… My mobile is my salvation. Yes, I am a deaf person.”
“I do not hear the sound of wind, birds, rain, or melody, but my eyes see what my ears can’t appreciate.”
“It is my most valuable personal element. It is the window of my soul. And my hands are the bridge that connects me to the world; I use them to talk, write, understand and express my thoughts, which are not so different from yours. We are the same, I just do not regret that I could not hear and talk like you… Yes, I am a deaf person.”
“I’m not like you, but I’m not stupid. I can be wrong, mistakes are human, but if I’m wrong because I did not get it, and if I did not, it’s because we did not make any effort to explain or because you explained it badly, but that does not make me silly. Yes, I am a deaf person.”
“I can speak. Some can understand me. Others… not so much. Sometimes it’s hard to understand, in the same way that you do not understand the Chinese. Yes, I am a deaf person.”
“I mean, in my way. But I do the same things you do: Study, work, travel, driving, games, sports, getting married and becoming a parent or scientist… in fact, I have a life, and I run like you! Yes, I am a deaf person.”
Though she is deaf, Melissa hasn’t allowed her hearing impairment to change her dream: to become a Maltese MP in the future
The announcement, which came on International Women’s Day, could see major debates that occur in Parliament broadcast with a deaf translation on screen, allowing deaf people to follow the debates, and increase participation in national discussions.
It’s been an inspiration to be with #MelissaAquilina today. TY @presidentMT @helenadalli @JuliaFarrugia and @JosephMuscat_JM for meeting this remarkable young woman today. A future leader is among us. @UKinMalta. https://t.co/Pequ75jGBY
— Stuart Gill (@BHCStuartGill) March 8, 2019
Meeting the truly inspirational #MelissaAquilina today following her successful entry in the #TakingTheLead Competition organised by @UKinMalta and the Office of the President. Thank you @BHCStuartGill for coming up with this initiative. #WomensDay2019 #IWD2019 pic.twitter.com/5y1a2t4fUR
— Marie-Louise Coleiro (@presidentMT) March 8, 2019