NZSL Act Review 2011 - What did people say in the review?

You can read in this section the main things people said about how the NZSL Act has been working and the changes that could be made to it.

How well has the NZSL Act been working?

More people now know about NZSL

Most people said that more hearing people now know about NZSL.

Deaf people said that they feel more confident using NZSL and when asking for an interpreter.

As well as the NZSL Act, two other big things that helped this to happen were:

  • Deaf Aotearoa’s annual NZSL awareness week
  • the presence of a NZSL interpreter next to Bob Parker, the Mayor of Christchurch, when he was on TV during the earthquakes.

Government has not used NZSL as much as expected

Many Deaf people expected that the NZSL Act would have made government departments provide information in NZSL and that NZSL would be used in official events. Government departments have not used NZSL as much as Deaf people expected.

But use of NZSL is increasing. For example, in 2011, NZSL interpreters were present for the first time at the official Waitangi Day celebrations. The interpreter translated between Māori, English and NZSL.

Also, in September 2011, a NZSL explanation of the NZSL Act was released on the Office for Disability Issues website, at:

Accessing government services is not always easy

Some people said that government services, such as Work and Income, can be really good in one town at getting NZSL interpreters but in another town they are not so good. They said this is because some government staff do not know what is expected of them.

One of the problems government departments have is finding NZSL interpreters who are suitably qualified. There is a shortage of NZSL interpreters, and most of them live in Auckland or Wellington.

Some good examples of information in NZSL on services are:

  • ACC
  • Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management
  • Electoral Commission
  • Ministry of Social Development, including:
    • Work and Income
    • Child, Youth and Family
    • Office for Disability Issues
  • Statistics New Zealand
  • Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner
  • Human Rights Commission.

Not many Deaf people have been in courts

Most people said that they did not have any, or enough, experience with courts to say whether using NZSL in courts was working for Deaf people.

Some people suggested that there needed to be more training of court staff. The Ministry of Justice said that its instructions on how NZSL interpreters should be provided in courts seem to be working well on the whole.

Recently, the Ministry of Justice has been looking at how courts work with all interpreters, including NZSL interpreters. Some changes are going to be made so that using interpreters works better. One change is that a complaints process will be introduced by October 2012. This means that if people are not happy with how NZSL interpreters are used in courts then they can make a complaint.

Other parts of the justice system have a mixed record

Deaf people should be able to access a NZSL interpreter at any time in a criminal justice setting, such as during a Police interview, in meetings before going to court, or when in prison. This is required by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Deaf people’s experiences across the justice system were varied. Some people said they had good experiences with the Police. Some prisons were said to be really good at using NZSL and others not so good.

What about changes to the NZSL Act?

People talked about different things that could be done to the NZSL Act.

Some changes proposed for the NZSL Act include:

  • creating a NZSL Commission to promote and monitor the use of NZSL, like the Māori Language Commission does for Māori
  • adding broadcasting, so that there was more use of NZSL on television and movies
  • creating a right to use NZSL for Deaf people in early childhood, primary, secondary, or tertiary education
  • requiring access to NZSL interpreters in other parts of the justice system, like in reporting a crime to the Police
  • making the use of NZSL a requirement for social and cultural matters, such as for funerals, weddings, or parent-teacher interviews at schools
  • adding in Crown entities, such as hospitals, schools, ACC or Housing New Zealand Corporation, to those government agencies covered by the NZSL Act.

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