The Office for Disability Issues has published its report on the review of the New Zealand Sign Language Act.
The review was conducted from January 2011. There was a high level of interest, with 18 community meetings attended by over 177 people and 41 written or video submissions made. In summary, during the review people said that more hearing people now know about New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). However, Government has not used as much NZSL as expected and accessing Government services, including Courts, is not always easy. The review states that “while the NZSL Act is not functioning as well as it might, this may be the result of poor practice rather than being attributable to the NZSL Act itself”.
The Minister for Disability Issues has considered suggestions - like more promotion of NZSL, improved access to interpreters in the wider justice system and more NZSL in broadcasting - and decided there is no need for change to the NZSL Act. She considers the changes suggested can be achieved without changes to the Act. The review suggests changes to implement the Act more effectively:
- Ministers could promote the use of NZSL by signing a greeting at the start of speeches, in a similar way to how Māori greetings are used.
- Ministers in charge of Crown entities that provide services could remind them that they should not discriminate or treat people badly just because they can’t hear.
- Government departments should make sure they use NZSL in public events they organise; have more information about their services in NZSL; know when and how to use an interpreter; ensure their service providers are trained in how to communicate with Deaf people; and report to the Office for Disability Issues annually about how many meetings with Deaf people they had and whether NZSL interpreters were used.
- The Ministry of Justice should increase the training of court staff so that Deaf people find it easier to use NZSL in courts.
- The Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Economic Development will work on how a video remote interpreting service for government departments could be set up, as a way to cope with the shortage of NZSL interpreters.
The Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues will be responsible for implementing changes. Reports on progress in implementing changes will be included in the Minister for Disability Issues annual report to Parliament.