April 26, 2024

The importance of Flemish Sign Language at VRT

VRT is dedicated to making its programmes accessible to as many Flemish people as possible. One of the initiatives taken is Flemish Sign Language (VGT). For instance, the VRT NWS Journaal and the Karrewiet youth news are interpreted in VGT every day. But VRT's initiatives go beyond that. From accessible events like The Warmest Week to even guided tours on VRT using Flemish Sign Language.

Head of VGT at VRT Aster Lauwers explains why VGT is so important to work on:

"We are the public broadcaster of Flanders. This means that we have to be there for all Flemish people, including deaf and hard-of-hearing signers. For them, we dedicate ourselves every day to ensuring that they are involved in VRT's story and can follow the programmes we make. In this, subtitling in all our programmes is a matter of course. But committing to Flemish Sign Language is also very important."

Societl impact

According to the management agreement, a contract with the Flemish government, VRT must daily offer news for young and old in Flemish Sign Language. But the focus on accessibility goes much further than that. They are working on a whole range of other programmes and projects that are socially relevant

"We choose programmes that we know have a lot of public added value, and that will have a big impact on our society. We also listen to the needs of the community during collective consultation moments with the target groups. That feedback is very valuable. This way, we find out what is going on, and we know: there is still work to be done," says Aster Lauwers

Aster Lauwers - Head of VGT at VRTAster Lauwers - Head of VGT at VRT

A total of 10 interpreters work in the VGT team at VRT. 5 of them are hearing interpreters, and 5 of them are deaf interpreters of Flemish Sign Language. One of them is Serge Vlerick. He has been there since the early days, as he has been interpreting for VRT for about 12 years:

"As a deaf person, I grew up with television that was not accessible to me. There were no interpreters of Flemish Sign Language. There were limited subtitles, but they were also not as accessible then as they are now. That's why I'm glad that, as an interpreter myself, I can help make VRT more accessible. In the beginning, only Karrewiet and the VRT NWS news were interpreted, but gradually more informative programmes were added that deaf people could watch and understand in their own language. If you can watch a programme in the language you understand best, you feel more equal. It is definitely an added value that deaf people also have full access to the information our public broadcaster sends out into the world. We continue to grow in this and I hope that VRT will one day become 100% accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing signers in the future."

Pictured left: Serge Vlerick - interpreter VGTPictured left: Serge Vlerick - interpreter VGT

Accessibility is also part of the events organised by VRT. Major events such as The Warmest Week are all supported by Flemish Sign Language. Closer to home, namely right under our VRT tower itself, you can now also take guided tours using Flemish Sign Language.

All these initiatives, whether small or large, ensure that VRT becomes the inspiring and connecting public broadcaster of all Flemish people, young and old, with or without any kind of (hearing) impairment.