Language is an essential part of developing individual and community identity and culture. It also provides a pathway that allows people to connect with others, and access all a society has to offer including, education and employment.
As one of our country’s official languages, New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is a valued taonga of Aotearoa New Zealand, and in particular of the Deaf community. NZSL is an integral part of the Deaf community’s realisation of both mana and Deaf culture. NZSL is critical to New Zealand as a whole and part of what makes Aotearoa unique.
To ensure that NZSL is sustained in the Deaf community and across Aotearoa, the NZSL Board has responsibilities that extend across leadership, advice, strategy, and coordination and monitoring of NZSL. In addition, the work of the NZSL Board helps government meet its commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and its obligations under the New Zealand Sign Language Act (2006).
By setting a strategic direction, the NZSL Board is creating a strong platform for developing the acquisition and use of NZSL in New Zealand, while ensuring it is also accessible and available to all users. This strategy gives effect to the NZSL Act.
As Minister for Disability Issues, an important part of my role is to influence and support improvements in the accessibility of information provided by government. As such, I envision that this Strategy will guide the work of government agencies and Crown entities to ensure that we meet the language needs of NZSL users and the Deaf community.
This Strategy comes at a time when government agencies are confirming their commitment by signing an Accessibility Charter to working progressively over the next five years towards providing information for the public that is accessible to everyone.
By implementing this Strategy, we are demonstrating the value of NZSL in Aotearoa, ensuring its survival and reinforcing its sustainability as a language that is recognised and embraced by all New Zealanders.
Hon Carmel Sepuloni
Minister for Disability Issues
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