This week is New Zealand Sign Language Week (NZSL), a nationwide celebration of NZSL as an official language of New Zealand.
“We’re recognised as a world leader for our commitment to maintaining and furthering the use of our sign language,” says Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni.
“That’s why it’s important that we take this opportunity to really celebrate and affirm the passion and diversity of our Deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
“This week is also about lifting the status of NZSL by making sure we’re constantly including our Deaf and hard-of-hearing community in everything we do – from our everyday conversations to decision-making.
“I note for example, how important it was that we had NZSL interpreters at the COVID-19 1pm press briefings during the initial alert level restrictions. It was the one constant thing that connected the community with news at the same time as the rest of the country.”
The Minister said the Government had also taken steps to invest in inclusive and accessible spaces for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Ko Taku Reo Deaf Education New Zealand – which runs a youth theatre project – received funding as part of the Government’s Creatives in Schools programme.
“This particular project underlines the importance of supporting the community to confidently express and celebrate their unique Deaf culture, and strengthen their sense of identity and belonging in the arts and creative space,” said Ms Sepuloni.
“Bridging these divides and breaking down barriers continue to be a key priority for me, from making news and spaces accessible to encouraging more New Zealanders to participate in New Zealand sign language. This is all part of building an inclusive Aotearoa.”