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

From August 2012 to August 2013, the Human Rights Commission carried out an inquiry into the use and promotion of New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). The inquiry has focused on working with key government agencies and the deaf community around the inquiruy’s three terms of reference:

  1. The right to education for deaf people and potential users of NZSL.
  2. 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.
  3. The promotion and maintenance of NZSL as an official language of New Zealand.

A draft report was made available for public feedback in June 2013 . The draft report is organised into a background section followed by three chapters based around the inquiry’s Terms of Reference. More background on the inquiry can be found here

A Era in the Right to Sign

The full report of the inquiry, A New Era in the Right to Sign, was launched in Parliament by the Minister for Disability Issues, Tariana Turia, on 3 September 2013.

CMP5215 250x166 The Right to Sign: New Zealand Sign Language and Human Rights

Minister Turia with Disability Commissioner Paul Gibson at the launch.

One of the main findings was the need for families to be exposed to and learn NZSL alongside their child as soon as possible after the identification of hearing (and in some cases speech) impairment. Another key finding was that deaf people and other NZSL users are often not able to access their right to education. Staff working with deaf students often receive minimal training in NZSL and deaf culture. Access to NZSL interpreters can be difficult not only in education but in healthcare and other essential services.  There is also no monitoring of the quantity and cost of NZSL interpreters within government agencies, which makes it difficult to identify gaps in access for deaf people.

The Inquiry report contains 15 major recommendations that suggest ways to take down the barriers for deaf people and other NZSL users, including increasing NZSL resourcing in early childhood and schools, and prioritising training in disability awareness, deaf culture and NZSL for health care early intervention staff.

Another key recommendation is the creation of an Expert Advisory Group on NZSL and ultimately an NZSL Statutory Board to champion the value, use, promotion and maintenance of NZSL alongside New Zealand other official languages.

Click here to read the full set of recommendations

Read A New Era in the Right to Sign:

An Easy read version of the Foreword, Executive summary and recommendations will be available and uploaded shortly.
Braille versions of the Foreword, Executive summary and recommendations are available on request, please call 0800 496 877 or email resources@hrc.co.nz

 

 

 

Title: “Map 1: Decrease in number of new bonds lodged between 2010 and 2012 December years” p.6 MBIE Housing Pressures Report, see: http://www.dbh.govt.nz/UserFiles/File/Publications/Sector/pdf/christchurch-housing-report.pdf

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