Promoting access to justice for New Zealand Sign Language users

Auckland Disability Law organised a series of workshops involving NZSL interpreters to ensure that their services are inclusive, culturally appropriate and engaging with the Deaf Community.

Workshops were organised to cater for the NZSL users and covered a range of topics such as the Privacy Act, introduction to the law, human rights and discrimination, employment rights, and employment problem solving, WINZ benefit rights, consumer rights, domestic violence, police and courts, wills and enduring powers of attorney, and harmful digital communications (cyber-bullying).

At the 2015 Community Law Centres of Aotearoa Hui in Christchurch, an interpreter was made available for the education sessions and community activities. Auckland Disability Law provided a professional development session on Deaf Culture, the importance and history of NZSL, the rights and experiences of Deaf people, and related legal challenges and tools to assist NZSL users.

Auckland Disability Law also completed NZSL translation of three employment chapters of the Community Law Manual and have loaded these onto the Community Law Centres Aotearoa website.

During 2015-2016 over 280 people attended Community Law Centre education sessions and community activities where NZSL interpreting was provided. This included legal education sessions with the Deaf Senior Citizens Group and an introduction to interacting with the police and courts with the Deaf Youth Group. In Manawatu, there were a series of three legal education sessions with Deaf Aotearoa. In Tauranga, a session with Deaf Aotearoa was delivered on Health and Safety Rights. Auckland Disability Law also ran a series of sessions with Te Roopu Waiora, a Māori Kaupapa disability organisation.

In April 2016, Auckland Disability Law organised The Conversation - Supported Decision Making Hui, which was made accessible with NZSL interpreters.

In 2017 over 400 people attended Community Law Centre education sessions, events and community activities where NZSL interpreting was provided. In partnership with Auckland Deaf Society, Auckland Disability Law ran a five-session education series called Know Your Rights Legal Education Series 2017. The sessions covered a range of topics which were identified in conjunction with Auckland Deaf Society to meet their members’ needs. The Manawatu Community Law Centre again ran a three-session legal education series with Deaf Aotearoa. Auckland Disability Law ran a 10-session Unpacking Disability Law Series at the Auckland Deaf Society and NZSL interpreting was provided within the series.

NZSL interpreting was provided at the Community Law Centre Aotearoa Hui in Auckland in late 2017. NZSL interpreting was also provided at governance events in May and June 2017.

During August and September 2017, Auckland Disability Law supported community engagement activities and events which supported Deaf people’s participation. This included NZSL interpreting at three community events within the My Voice Matters Campaign, which encouraged voting in the 2017 General Election.

These accessible workshops have resulted in increasing Deaf people’s knowledge about legal issues such as their rights, protections and processes.

With the experience and knowledge from organising these workshops, the Community Law Centres have a better understanding of how to promote and register participants from the Deaf community, as well as knowing the correct processes for booking NZSL interpreters. They are also aware that the workshop content needs to be tailored to a level which is accessible to a Deaf community audience. This has reinforced the need for organisations to be strategic and to build good working relationships with key Deaf organisations and groups to meet the needs of Deaf people.


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