Saturday, April 13, 2024

Language week a sign of the times

This week (9 – 15 May 2022) is New Zealand Sign Language Week (NZSL), a nationwide celebration of NZSL as an official language of New Zealand.

“This year’s theme ‘New Zealand Sign Language is essential’ recognises the prominence and importance of our third official language, and draws a spotlight on essential workers who are Deaf,” Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni said.

“I’m proud of the status we have given to New Zealand Sign Language, both in Aotearoa New Zealand and on an international stage. We’re recognised as a world leader for our commitment to maintaining and furthering the use of our sign language.

“Our work in this area was recently recognised in the United Kingdom as their government passed the final reading for the British Sign Language (BSL) Bill on 27 April 2022.”

NZSL was recognised as an official language of New Zealand in 2006. Approximately 20,000 people in New Zealand use New Zealand Sign Language as a form of communication and of this, approximately 4,600 are Deaf.

Sign-language interpreter Rosie Henley translates while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament (file image).

“NZSL is an official language, but it is endangered. I’d like to see all New Zealanders get involved, to ensure that NZSL is maintained and promoted, and not lost,” the Minister said.

“The maintenance and promotion of NZSL is vital to Deaf New Zealander’s community participation, inclusion, access to services, wellbeing, education, and Deaf culture. It is about Deaf New Zealanders including our tangata turi community, having a good life in Aotearoa like all other New Zealanders.

“Last year our Government announced that on 1 July, we’ll be launching a new Ministry for Disabled People. While the official name has yet to be confirmed, I’m excited by the fact that this will be New Zealand’s first Ministry with an NZSL name.

“This week I’ll be participating in the Leaders’ Challenge to show that we can all give signing a go and connect with Deaf people for whom NZSL is essential.

“While this week is New Zealand Sign Language Week, every week we must take steps towards improving accessibility, raising awareness, and building inclusivity for the Deaf community. I’m pleased that New Zealand Sign Language continues to evolve and thrive as an official language of New Zealand,” Ms Sepuloni said.

There are lots of other ways to get involved in celebrating NZSL week around the motu. A range of resources have been developed to encourage more people to sign in their homes, workplaces, schools and universities.

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