Ironically the title is a very hearing idiom to use when I want to talk about an issue for the Deaf.
It’s that time of year, we get to recognise the 20,000 odd Kiwis who can’t hear, it’s New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) week. Yes, it started on Monday and runs till Sunday the 15th of May.
Hard to believe it was 10 years ago, Aotearoa/New Zealand got another official language. Hard to believe it was 5 years ago Mojo Mathers had a hell of a fight to just participate in the parliament she was elected to.
Now we celebrate 10 years and it’s great, except it really feels – Kinda half baked. You see for a large group of people in our society English is a second language, New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is their first. The language was made an official language because people understood, that NZSL is the first language for very many people. These are people who have jobs, kids, pay taxes, own cars, do shopping and are a part of our community – who have a whole different language which is their first, and in many cases, their only form of communication. It is great we recognise NZSL as a language. BUT.
Where is NZSL on the news, or anywhere on TV? Even though the presence of interpreters is fairly scant in the US, they are light years ahead of NZ and at least some popular pressure is being applied to have sign language a mandatory feature in local and national news programmes.
Some good news.This week we will be having interpreters for question time in parliament. As we did last year. So for one week, we get to be modern, and have for the 20,000 odd Deaf kiwi’s, the ability to understand what parliament actually does in question time.
Last year we had Ron Mark prove how good it was to have interpreters in the house.
My hope is, rather than just a token one week a year gig, we start to expand the use of New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) – not only into all the question times, but far beyond, so that NZ becomes an inclusive society.
Is anyone listening?