On Tuesday, March 19 we were joined by alumni of the Fulbright Program for a lunch with Helga Stevens in the European Parliament in Brussels. The topics of discussion were the evolution of the European Parliament and accessibility for people with disabilities in education.

After everyone had introduced themselves shortly around the table, Helga shared with us what she has been up to in the last 15 years. Being born deaf in a hearing family, education has definitely come with more challenges for her along the way, but her parents always wanted her to have the best opportunities in terms of education. After graduating in Belgium she completed a LL.M. Program at the University of California in Berkeley, USA as a Fulbright grantee.

One of the most interesting facts is that many people often have the misconception that sign language is universal, which is not the case. Helga speaks American sign language (which she learned in the U.S.), British, French and Dutch sign language (her native language). Even though we can definitely see some progress that has been made in the last decades in terms of accessibility for people with disabilities, there is still a lot of work to be done. After we finished lunch, Helga and her parliament staff were so kind enough to give us a tour around the Parliament that consists of several buildings connected to each other.

We want to thank Helga Stevens and her staff for hosting us at the European Parliament!

About the speaker

Helga Stevens has been a Member of Parliament for the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) since years. She was elected as Member of the Flemish Parliament in 2004 and re-elected in 2009. She was appointed Community Senator by the Flemish Parliament in 2007 and again in 2010 (in 2010 she was also directly elected as Senator). She was elected Member of the European Parliament in 2014. Helga also served on the City Council of Ghent, Belgium, from 2007 till 2014.

About the series

The Fulbright Eat & Meet lunches provide recently-returned alumni of the Fulbright Program the opportunity to learn from and network with experts in a variety of different professional areas. Events are held regularly throughout the year and previous hosts include politicians, industry leaders, and academics. Are you interested in hosting Fulbright alumni for a Fulbright Eat&Meet, or do you have a guest speaker in mind? Email secretary@fulbright.be.