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- The Right to Sign: New Zealand Sign Language and Human Rights
- A fair go for all?
- Canterbury earthquake recovery
Key Focus Areas
The Right to Sign: New Zealand Sign Language and Human Rights
An inquiry into the use and promotion of New Zealand Sign Language as an official language of New Zealand
Why is the Human Rights Commission carrying out this inquiry?
New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) has been an official language of New Zealand since 2006. Positive things have happened in this time. These include the establishment of a video relay service, an online NZSL dictionary and some government agencies now providing information in NZSL.
However, deaf people continue to experience barriers to the full enjoyment of their human rights. Evidence to support this has been collected from:
- complaints received by the Commission relating to deaf people experiencing discrimination in accessing and using their language (46 complaints and enquiries have been received since 2006)
- extensive community consultations carried out in 2010-2011, policy investigations around access to information and access to political participation
- the independent monitoring report of the Convention Coalition, partner in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ (the Disability Convention) monitoring mechanism
- reports from Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) such as Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand.
Deaf people have the right to use NZSL to access public facilities and services. This enables them to live independently in the community, receive education, and express their opinions and thoughts. These rights are listed in the Disability Convention. New Zealand has agreed to make these rights real.
The inquiry will assess what barriers are preventing that the full practice of these rights in New Zealand.
The Commission is a Crown entity, however, it is independent of the Government. It resolves complaints of unlawful discrimination, promotes and educates about human rights, advocates for the practice of human rights, publishes resources and guides and provides policy analysis and advocacy. The Commission can undertake inquiries if it thinks human rights have been violated.
The Terms of Reference (see below) set out what the inquiry will cover.
The Commission’s focus for this inquiry is on working with key government agencies to explore and address issues relating to effective and accessible service provision for NZSL users. As part of this, the inquiry will explore the meaning, effect and promotion of NZSL as an official language. It will build on existing NZSL work and reports.
A Commission team began work on the NZSL Inquiry in August 2012. It will be completed in June 2013.
|Aug – Oct 2012||Gathering information, research, reports, etc|
|Sept – Dec 2012||Engagement with government department stakeholders. Reviewing information, research and reports|
|Feb – May 2013||Draft report. Seek feedback from stakeholders on draft report|
|June 2013||Publish final report|
Terms of Reference, what will the Inquiry cover?
The NZSL inquiry will look at three areas. These areas have been informed by information from, and consultations with, the Deaf community. They are:
- The right to education for deaf people and potential users of NZSL.
- The rights of deaf peoples, and other potential users of NZSL, to access communication, information and services, and the right to freedom of expression and opinion, through the provision of professional NZSL interpreter services and other NZSL services and resources.
- The promotion and maintenance of NZSL as an official language of New Zealand.
If you would like more information or would like to receive updates on the NZSL Inquiry from the Commission, please contact: