Progress Report - 2006/2007
Implementation of the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006
The New Zealand Sign Language Act (the Act) became law in April 2006. The Act is an important step forward as it recognises the language and culture of the Deaf community.
The Act gives Deaf people a right to use New Zealand Sign Language in legal proceedings. It also sets out principles to guide government departments in consulting the Deaf community on matters relating to New Zealand Sign Language and its use by government agencies.
The Act provides that reporting on progress in implementing this Act be included in the progress reports for the New Zealand Disability Strategy. Therefore, as part of the annual reporting progress, departments are asked to say what they are doing to implement the Act. Agencies have reported the following:
- ACC produced a DVD which uses New Zealand Sign Language and captioning to provide information about the ACC Scheme and how to access it. The DVD was made with the assistance of Deaf claimants who shared their stories about how ACC has supported them.
- in 2007/2008, ACC is developing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Deaf Association of New Zealand to improve access to New Zealand Sign Language interpreters and other relevant services where required for Deaf and hearing impaired people.
- all ACC television adverts are now captioned. ACC also operates two specialised units, with dedicated email and fax, to cater for people with hearing impairments, and has introduced a training module to empower staff to better connect with Deaf claimants.
- Housing New Zealand Corporation is planning a detailed review of its Communications Strategy during 2007/2008 – this will fully consider the requirements of the Act.
- the New Zealand Customs Service has developed operational policy procedures covering access to, and use of, New Zealand Sign Language interpreters – there is also a national register of interpreters available to staff via a hyperlink in the procedures.
- the Ministry for Culture and Heritage has formally invited New Zealand On Air and Television New Zealand to develop plans for improving Deaf people’s access to public broadcasting services including consultation with the Deaf community. The Ministry has consulted with both agencies on how to improve access for Deaf people to the broadcast media services funded by the government.
- the Ministry for Culture and Heritage has formally invited government departments to consider whether there is scope for providing Deaf people with access to information they make available via broadcast media. Both New Zealand On Air and Television New Zealand are planning to consult with minority groups, including disabled people, to ensure they meet their broadcasting needs.
- the Treasury is developing an “Access to New Zealand Sign Language Interpreters” policy. This will increase staff awareness, and provide advice on how to best meet needs for a New Zealand Sign Language interpreter.
- Statistics New Zealand – celebrated New Zealand Sign Language week with events and activities to raise awareness and visibility of New Zealand Sign Language within the organisation. This included a presentation to staff about Deaf language and culture, a taster class in New Zealand Sign Language, posters, distribution of finger-spelling cards, posting of basic signs in resource areas, showing of Deaf short films and holding of a ‘signing space” where New Zealand Sign Language users and students could gather and korero in New Zealand Sign Language.
- Statistics New Zealand is currently developing a New Zealand Sign Language Policy to cover the use of New Zealand Sign Language within Statistics New Zealand and the services that the department provides. This will enable Deaf people to participate in surveys more easily, create a Deaf-friendly work environment, and make information provided by Statistics New Zealand more accessible to the Deaf community.
- National Library of New Zealand – New Zealand Relay Service – Development of Policy for New Zealand Sign Language.
the Ministry of Health has the following initiatives:
- sign language interpreters were available at recent consumer forums, hui and fono throughout New Zealand
- the Disability Services Directorate Consumer Consortium has 18 people representing disability organisations – one member regularly communicated in New Zealand Sign Language, at both the meetings and when representing the Consortium at consumer forums
- Disability Services Directorate is producing a DVD on how to get information and access to disability support services funding by the Ministry of Health – the DVD uses New Zealand Sign Language, captioning to make it accessible for Deaf and hearing-impaired people.
Inland Revenue is planning to consult with the Deaf community about their preferences regarding:
- New Zealand Sign Language and its use in the promotion of IRD services and information
- the provision of information and service delivery
- current services and their usage.
- The Department of Labour is developing a report on Labour Market Information Needs for Sign Language interpreters. This will outline the availability of labour market information about interpreters –focussing on interpreters and users in terms of what information is currently available, could be available and not available.
- The Office for Disability Issues is working with the Office for Ethnic Affairs on a proposal for a nationally consistent approach to standards, funding and provision of interpreters and translators.
- Work and Income will liaise with representatives of the Deaf community to develop a plan for appropriate use of New Zealand Sign Language.
- The Ministry of Education has developed New Zealand Sign Language in the New Zealand Curriculum which creates an opportunity for all students to learn the third official language of New Zealand. The Ministry is also developing The Learning Languages Series, which provides teachers with a multimedia resource specific to each language taught in schools – this emphasises the importance of learning both the language and the culture of those who use it.
The Ministry of Education has developed a five-year plan on how it will implement the Act. This has four key parts:
- communication and awareness, includes New Zealand Sign Language beginners courses in the Ministry, scoping of communications needs, stakeholder relationships, and a protocol for communicating with Deaf people
- workforce development, includes human resources, fostering an increase in tri-lingual interpreters, teachers of the deaf, increasing fluency and cultural awareness for specialist workforce, internal and external liaison, consideration of Deaf mentors
- access to learning through New Zealand Sign Language, including accessibility of tertiary sector, awareness of the Act within Crown entities, property advice, access to transition services, curriculum, multi-media package, and a mathematics lexicon
- other issues related to the principles of the Act such as improved website functionality and accessibility, strategic information and resourcing, and legal advice.