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Newsletters > Manahau: Resilience and Celebration > 2012 > April

Manahau: Resilience and Celebration

ISSN 1174-9245 April, 2012

Jordon Milroy is a 22-year-old student of social sciences at the Auckland University of Technology who will be climbing up the Sky Tower last week (17 April).  For many non disabled  people it would be a challenge but for Jordan it’s even more so as he has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. (View this article in NZSL.) Continue reading…

“I’m doing it to raise awareness for people with disabilities and to challenge society that people in wheelchairs can reach their goals.”  Jordan plans to discard his wheelchair and climb 1 267 steps in the country’s tallest building.  When he gets to the observation deck he will take the fast route down via the end of a bungee jump to terra firma.

“It’s not just about raising awareness – it’s also to raise money for wheelchairs in Samoa.”  Jordan was brought up in Samoa and had first-hand experience of the difficulty in getting around on the island terrain in a standard wheelchair. The donations will fund off-road chairs for disabled Samoan people.  “I want to be able to send five ‘rugged’ wheelchairs to Samoa.  People donate their wheelchairs to Samoa all the time but they never last because they are standard and they need off road ones.”

Jordan has been training his mind and body for the challenge. “Believing in yourself is the most important thing.  I have also been training for the past year by climbing 14 levels of steps in my apartment building most days as well as going to the gym.”

View this article in NZSL.

Rachel Noble has been working as the DPA’s chief executive for just a few weeks and says it’s a privilege to be in her new role.  Rachel is Deaf and was previously the CEO of Deaf Aotearoa for more than five years.  She comes from a background of Deaf education and says it’s an exciting time to be part of the disabled community with new opportunities emerging so people’s aspirations can be realised.  “After focusing within the Deaf sector I really enjoyed working with other disabled person’s organisations so this role provides me with the opportunity to continue.  Each group is diverse yet at another level we are all so united by our shared experiences in this world.  Celebrating our diversity and unity is important as we advance as a community.” ( View this article in NZSL.)

Continue reading…

Rachel looks forward to working with similar organisations internationally, including the rich network of people pivotal in the development of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  She originally trained as a food technologist and then as a high school teacher after which she spent two years teaching at Wainuiomata College in Wellington before heading to Auckland to train as a teacher of Deaf people.  Rachel then completed a degree in advanced Deaf education.  “However it is the real life experiences and conversations with a range of people that help to form how I see the world too.”

She sees her job as building bridged. “The disabled community has become extremely fractured and there are many voices crying out for attention.  We are yet to appreciate the full value and benefits that take place when real engagement takes place with disabled people.  Having moved from the medical and social model to the current rights based model we are seeing some very positive changes take place.  However we need to keep working on this.”

She says real and meaningful partnerships need to be in place with the right people and organisations.  "When it doesn’t happen things become so complicated and less relevant.  I am looking forward to the development of more real and positive partnerships so we become more active members within New Zealand’s landscape,” she says.

View this article in NZSL.

New leader for Disabled Persons Assembly

Rachel Noble has been working as the DPA’s chief executive for just a few weeks and says it’s a privilege to be in her new role.Rachel is Deaf and was previously the CEO of Deaf Aotearoa for more than five years.She comes from a background of Deaf education and says it’s an exciting time to be part of the disabled community with new opportunities emerging so people’s aspirations can be realised.“After focusing within the Deaf sector I really enjoyed working with other disabled person’s organisations so this role provides me with the opportunity to continue.Each group is diverse yet at another level we are all so united by our shared experiences in this world.Celebrating our diversity and unity is important as we advance as a community.”

Rachel looks forward to working with similar organisations internationally, including the rich network of people pivotal in the development of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.She originally trained as a food technologist and then as a high school teacher after which she spent two years teaching at Wainuiomata College in Wellington before heading to Auckland to train as a teacher of Deaf people.Rachel then completed a degree in advanced Deaf education.“However it is the real life experiences and conversations with a range of people that help to form how I see the world too.”

She sees her job as building bridged. “The disabled community has become extremely

New leader for Disabled Persons Assembly

Rachel Noble has been working as the DPA’s chief executive for just a few weeks and says it’s a privilege to be in her new role.  Rachel is Deaf and was previously the CEO of Deaf Aotearoa for more than five years.  She comes from a background of Deaf education and says it’s an exciting time to be part of the disabled community with new opportunities emerging so people’s aspirations can be realised.  “After focusing within the Deaf sector I really enjoyed working with other disabled person’s organisations so this role provides me with the opportunity to continue.  Each group is diverse yet at another level we are all so united by our shared experiences in this world.  Celebrating our diversity and unity is important as we advance as a community.”

Rachel looks forward to working with similar organisations internationally, including the rich network of people pivotal in the development of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  She originally trained as a food technologist and then as a high school teacher after which she spent two years teaching at Wainuiomata College in Wellington before heading to Auckland to train as a teacher of Deaf people.  Rachel then completed a degree in advanced Deaf education.  “However it is the real life experiences and conversations with a range of people that help to form how I see the world too.”

She sees her job as building bridged. “The disabled community has become extremely fractured and there are many voices crying out for attention.  We are yet to appreciate the full value and benefits that take place when real engagement takes place with disabled people.  Having moved from the medical and social model to the current rights based model we are seeing some very positive changes take place.  However we need to keep working on this.”

She says real and meaningful partnerships need to be in place with the right people and organisations.  "When it doesn’t happen things become so complicated and less relevant.  I am looking forward to the development of more real and positive partnerships so we become more active members within New Zealand’s landscape,” she says.

fractured and there are many voices crying out for attention.We are yet to appreciate the full value and benefits that take place when real engagement takes place with disabled people.Having moved from the medical and social model to the current rights based model we are seeing some very positive changes take place.However we need to keep working on this.”

She says real and meaningful partnerships need to be in place with the right people and organisations."When it doesn’t happen things become so complicated and less relevant.I am looking forward to the development of more real and positive partnerships so we become more active members within New Zealand’s landscape,” she says.

View this article in NZSL.

The country’s first Deaf MP Mojo Mathers wants to ensure Parliament is fully accessible to all New Zealanders. (View this article in NZSL.) Continue reading…

The Green MP in her first term was at the centre of a furore earlier this year when the Speaker of the House turned down her request for funding to cover electronic note takers to allow her to take a full part in Parliamentary debates and process. Mojo was told to find funding from her existing Green Party allowances.   It resulted in outrage from the public and many other MPs. The Speaker Lockwood Smith later decided to okay funding from Parliamentary Services. 

Mojo says the decision provides genuine equity for treatment for people with disability who get elected in to Parliament.  “The move to introduce captioning on Parliament TV was particularly welcome as well. It would greatly increase access to the political debate and Parliament to the 700,000 New Zealanders with a hearing impairment.”

Mojo Mathers was born in London and emigrated here with her family when she was 14. She is Deaf because of a difficult birth and a lack of oxygen during her delivery but it hasn’t impaired her education.  “I have an honours degree in Mathematics (1st class) and Masters in Conservation Forestry (Distinction) from Canterbury university.” Mojo has also been a Green Party strategic policy advisor and a parliamentary advisor on water issues in 2005. She was the joint owner of a small business offering forestry management services from 2001-2006.

“My community connections include being a committee member of the Disability Inclusion Group; founding member of Malvern Hills Protection Society, which successfully opposed the Central Plains Water scheme; secretary/spokesperson for the Dam Action Group (2001-2004).  I am also a mother of three and a former play centre committee member.”

Despite her achievements it has not been an easy road. “As a child I experienced rejection and bullying from many of my hearing peers. Later on when I had an honours degree I was turned down from a job at a research organisation because they didn’t want to employ someone who couldn’t use a phone. At the time I didn’t have the confidence to challenge that attitude and point out how I would get around that.”

She says that when she first joined the Green party and stood as a candidate, many members assumed that she wouldn’t be able to cope with the pressures of being an MP because ofher hearing impairment.

“In fact I have coped very well indeed and nothing has come up yet that I haven’t had to deal with as part of managing the day to day pressures of being Deaf in a hearing world.  But there was no way of convincing people that beforehand.”

She says hearing loss is very much an invisible disability and general awareness of just how much it impacts on everyday life is low.  “The Government could help by including awareness training around hearing loss in public sector induction courses and continuing education. There is a need for legislation to be enacted similar to the UK Disability Discrimination Act to close existing loopholes in our legislation. We need full funding of specialised workplace equipment and note-taker and transcription services.”

As for her Parliamentary responsibilities, Mojo is still waiting to ask a question in the House. This is partly due to the need to work through a number of technical and process issues related to the note taking service.

View this article in NZSL.

Voice Thru Your Hands is a voluntary organisation set up by a Palmerston North mum Alison Attwell to bring the benefits of NZSL to those with delayed speech and other disabilities. (View this article in NZSL.)

Continue reading…

Her daughter Tarryn has Down’s Syndrome and her speech was slow in developing so Alison went to a night class to learn and then teach NZSL to her daughter so they can communicate more effectively.

“It is our vision that all children − whether they are Deaf, have a hearing impairment or are non-verbal are given the chance to have a voice,” Alison says.

Voice Thru Your Hands was founded in 2007 after Alison heard a speech therapist say children needed speech to communicate.  “I was furious as that’s not true and that’s when I went on the mission of making NZSL accessible for not just Deaf children but for those in the non-verbal community.”  More children, such as those with autism and delayed speech are finding the benefit of learning NZSL.

“People don’t realise that sign language is an official language of the country so we should have more people using it.” The foundation has worked with about 25 children in the Manawatu and received funding from the Office of Disability Issues to run workshops throughout the country.

“We also hold children’s visual communication classes every fortnight in town.  It is a great opportunity for people to be able to access a language,” says Alison.

Tarryn can now go to a movie and describe it to Alison in sign language when she gets home. A recent boost has come from a contract with the local Special Education department. The foundation can now visit schools or early childhood centre for six weeks and show teachers how easy NZSL is to use as a way to communicate.

“Usually teachers say ‘Oh no - we have 30 other students in the class and we can’t do that. But it’s not that hard.  Just go to an airport and watch how people use gestures.”

Tarryn goes to Whakarongo School near Palmerston North and that was after about 15 other schools turned the family away due to Tarryn’s use of sign language.  Now a lot of the students at her primary school who don’t have a hearing impairment or a disability use sign language to communicate with her.  “The teachers do as well and they all use sign when they are singing.  She is just part of the school like everyone else,” says Alison.

View this article in NZSL.

Speech not the only way to communicate

Voice Thru Your Hands is a voluntary organisation set up by a Palmerston North mum Alison Attwell to bring the benefits of NZSL to those with delayed speech and other disabilities.

Her daughter Tarryn has Down’s Syndrome and her speech was slow in developing so Alison went to a night class to learn and then teach NZSL to her daughter so they can communicate more effectively.

“It is our vision that all children − whether they are Deaf, have a hearing impairment or are non-verbal are given the chance to have a voice,” Alison says.

Voice Thru Your Hands was founded in 2007 after Alison heard a speech therapist say children needed speech to communicate.“I was furious as that’s not true and that’s when I went on the mission of making NZSL accessible for not just Deaf children but for those in the non-verbal community.”More children, such as those with autism and delayed speech are finding the benefit of learning NZSL.

“People don’t realise that sign language is an official language of the country so we should have more people using it.” The foundation has worked with about 25 children in the Manawatu and received funding from the Office of Disability Issues to run workshops throughout the country.

“We also hold children’s visual communication classes every fortnight in town.It is a great opportunity for people to be able to access a language,” says Alison.

Tarryn can now go to a movie and describe it to Alison in sign language when she gets home. A recent boost has come from a contract with the local Special Education department. The foundation can now visit schools or early childhood centre

Speech not the only way to communicate

Voice Thru Your Hands is a voluntary organisation set up by a Palmerston North mum Alison Attwell to bring the benefits of NZSL to those with delayed speech and other disabilities.

Her daughter Tarryn has Down’s Syndrome and her speech was slow in developing so Alison went to a night class to learn and then teach NZSL to her daughter so they can communicate more effectively.

“It is our vision that all children − whether they are Deaf, have a hearing impairment or are non-verbal are given the chance to have a voice,” Alison says.

Voice Thru Your Hands was founded in 2007 after Alison heard a speech therapist say children needed speech to communicate.  “I was furious as that’s not true and that’s when I went on the mission of making NZSL accessible for not just Deaf children but for those in the non-verbal community.”  More children, such as those with autism and delayed speech are finding the benefit of learning NZSL.

“People don’t realise that sign language is an official language of the country so we should have more people using it.” The foundation has worked with about 25 children in the Manawatu and received funding from the Office of Disability Issues to run workshops throughout the country.

“We also hold children’s visual communication classes every fortnight in town.  It is a great opportunity for people to be able to access a language,” says Alison.

Tarryn can now go to a movie and describe it to Alison in sign language when she gets home. A recent boost has come from a contract with the local Special Education department. The foundation can now visit schools or early childhood centre for six weeks and show teachers how easy NZSL is to use as a way to communicate.

“Usually teachers say ‘Oh no - we have 30 other students in the class and we can’t do that. But it’s not that hard.  Just go to an airport and watch how people use gestures.”

Tarryn goes to Whakarongo School near Palmerston North and that was after about 15 other schools turned the family away due to Tarryn’s use of sign language.  Now a lot of the students at her primary school who don’t have a hearing impairment or a disability use sign language to communicate with her.  “The teachers do as well and they all use sign when they are singing.  She is just part of the school like everyone else, ” says Alison.

for six weeks and show teachers how easy NZSL is to use as a way to communicate.

“Usually teachers say ‘Oh no - we have 30 other students in the class and we can’t do that. But it’s not that hard.Just go to an airport and watch how people use gestures.”

Tarryn goes to Whakarongo School near Palmerston North and that was after about 15 other schools turned the family away due to Tarryn’s use of sign language.Now a lot of the students at her primary school who don’t have a hearing impairment or a disability use sign language to communicate with her.“The teachers do as well and they all use sign when they are singing.She is just part of the school like everyone else, ” says Alison.

See how to communicate

Portrait of Sonia Pivac, Creative Director at Seeflow

A unique nationwide online sign language translation service promises to open a raft of ways for Deaf people to better connect in their work and life.

Seeflow, based in Auckland, offers a new service for Deaf people who need documents, emails, contracts, articles and so on, translated into New Zealand Sign Language.   Creative director Sonia Pivac says NZSL is New Zealand’s third official language and it should be more common and accessible. (View this article in NZSL.)

Continue reading…

“For various reasons a lot of Deaf people leave school with a reading age that is well below average and it means they have more difficulty finding employment. We are hoping that through Seeflow a Deaf person who has very strong sign language as a first language can use that to advance their career,” she says.

How does it work? A Deaf person emails Seeflow a document, or uploads it to the secure Seeflow website, where it is translated into NZSL video and returned to the sender.

Seeflow also offer a grammar checking and proof reading service, as well as “NZSL Letter” which enables organisations and government departments to send translations of public information, or private correspondence.  It has been developed by Deafradio, a Deaf-led company with other services including Multichannel Media who have worked on a number of large translation projects, including the NZSL Curriculum project.  Sonia says, “During our work on the larger translation projects, we realised access issues for Deaf people are mostly to do with smaller items of written material – letters from the hospital, newsletters from a club or brochures about government services.  This is a problem when your first language is NZSL.”

She says up to 8000 people are totally Deaf and there is a legal and moral obligation to supply information and access in sign language.  “We are proud of what we have done and delighted with the end product.”  Ms Pivac says there’s some funding that Deaf people can access through the Government’s Workbridge programme which supports the Seeflow service, meaning that MSD Job Support funds can be used by Deaf people to purchase the service in the same way that they would purchase an interpreter for a staff meeting.  “It is quite a new concept for Deaf people and we are enjoying that these Deaf people are starting to realise what they can use it for – particularly in the work place and it opens up a whole raft of opportunities for what Deaf people can do.  Deaf people can even go into the contact page on our website and record a video of what they want to comment on and send it to us and we can respond in the same way.”

Ms Pivac gives an example:  ”We had a query the other day from a Deaf person who wanted to submit a letter to the editor’s page of the Dominion Post and asked us if the newspaper would cover the cost of translating their signed letter or simply refuse it because it is in sign language.  The more organisations that agree to pay for support translation services the better, as it gives Deaf people real access to the community.”

The Human Rights Commission contracted Seeflow to enable people to make submissions on its draft discussion paper on accessibility The Wider Journey, to do so in NZSL.

View this article in NZSL.

I am Deaf - the logo for New Zealand Sign Language Week

At 5am on 6 February 2012, Aotearoa New Zealand celebrated its founding day in its three official languages. (View this article in NZSL.)

Amongst the dawn chorus of priests, politicians, and protesters preaching, the trees shifting in the breeze, the bagpipes whining, and the wisest of interjections from a ruru (morepork), the noise was only broken by the silence of the signing of Te Tiriti.

Seven generations on from the original signing, the Waitangi dawn service was literally signed, in New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), an official language of New Zealand for the last six years. We now expect events of national importance to celebrate and acknowledge our three official languages. We also expect such events to be accessible to everyone, including Deaf New Zealanders. Continue reading…

The first week of May is NZSL week, a time to connect, celebrate, and learn. Sign language is not just a means of communication for interpretation to and from other languages. It is a positive cultural expression of what it is to be Deaf; to be connected to a community with a unique way of “seeing” the world and a rich and distinct history and culture.

Despite NZSL’s official status, and positive technological advances such as Seeflow, phone and video relay services, Deaf people still face many infringements to their human rights, barriers to accessing NZSL, to freedom of expression and access to information, to accessing education, and to the availability of professional interpreting services. This all results in the social and economic inequalities experienced by Deaf people. Other disabled people whose impairment affects speech and who don’t have access to NZSL are also denied their rights.  Behind these issues are deeply embedded attitudes within most of society that struggle to understand diversity of function in the same way it has come to understand diversity of gender, ethnicity, or anything else we inherenently are that makes us different.

The Deaf community have a strength-based perception of who they are. They do not see themselves as disabled but as a minority linguistic group with a distinct and rich culture and heritage. The Deaf community’s pride in culture is not unique amongst impairment groups, but is probably the best expression of a strength based approach to impairment in a world that defines disabled people by inherent deficits. Evidence suggests that for disabled people, the key to a good life is for you, your family, and the people close to you, to be able to positively integrate the experience of what makes you different, unique, into your understanding of who you are: your identity and culture.

NZSL has mana with its official status. To assist in fulfilling NZSL’s potential, the Human Rights Commission will begin in July to use its powers of inquiry to strengthen NZSL as an official language, and recommend how it can be used to reduce the infringement of human rights of Deaf people and other potential beneficiaries of NZSL.

Any vision of a future New Zealand must involve us being more multilingual and inclusive.

To make a start toward this vision, a call to action for NZSL week, get involved in a taster class, teach or learn a little basic NZSL, learn to introduce yourself − it’s fun!

Paul Gibson
Disability Rights Commissioner

View this article in NZSL.