It Feels Kinda Half Baked.

Written By: - Date published: 11:06 am, May 13th, 2016 - 26 comments
Categories: discrimination, equality - Tags: , , , , , ,

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?


26 comments on “It Feels Kinda Half Baked.”

  1. adam 1

    Some more good news for Deaf.

    View post on

  2. shorts 2

    ideally every question time and news segment (filmed) would include sign and te reo maori captions

    not going to happen without govt stepping up though

  3. Ta adam – good call.

    I’d like there to be some signing on say the news, perhaps even a campaign to get people to learn a sign a week/day or something.

  4. lprent 4

    Good post. I know my hearing is getting worse as I get older. I now know one of the reasons that grandparents are so tolerant of small children. They can’t hear those high pitched tones.

    I also find I am using my hands more to communicate. It isn’t much to get an interpreter in. Parliament should just do it. Especially to get interpretation on the silenced bits.

    And if anyone didn’t catch the video of Ron Mark, they should. I suspect that anyone will be able to understand the translation.

    • adam 4.1

      Thanks Iprent, yeah the Ron Mark video is priceless.

      Ironically, he is a supporter of keeping interpreters in parliament question time, on a full time basis – which I think is great.

      I think with NZ First having a older supporter base, has meant they have had reasonably sound policy towards issues like this.

      • lprent 4.1.1

        I was actually moderately impressed with Ron Mark as a person when I met him at a NZF conference a few years ago. Ditto with his daughter as well.

        Something that for me doesn’t usually happen with political people.

        • adam

          He helped out a family friend in Christchurch many years ago, and I found him to be exceptional nice bloke, and understand. His support and advise gave genuine help to the family, and something better, hope.

          A very good constituent MP, I’d put him in the same class as Helen Clark, Wayne Mapp, and David Cunliffe in that regard.

    • mac1 4.2

      I mentioned this on another thread, but the sign language for John Key’s dismissal by the Speaker was also universal- a go away motion followed by two fingers going walkies. Ron Mark’s sign might also have applied in this case.

    • Lanthanide 4.3

      “Especially to get interpretation on the silenced bits.”

      Which may be a reason why the Speaker is resistent to it. The bits are silenced for a reason.

  5. Richardrawshark 5

    Mum’s hearings not so good and she uses the subtitles a lot, I do too now they are great when you can’t quite hear something. Most programs except live have subtitles I think signs on live events would be awesome too and should be a priority.

  6. Blackcap 6

    Interesting what ppl are saying. Its nice to be all inclusive but who is going to pay for it? I was recently at a wedding where three of my cousins who are deaf also attended. One of them receives 30 hours of translation services a year from the govt, But the wedding used up about 8 of this. I spoke to the interpreter as well…. they are on good coin and so if we were to provide interpreters for everything it would cost a packet. Another problem the interpreter stated was that there just are not enough deaf interpreters to go around for the demand that there is. That seems to be the crux of the issue as far as she was concerned. But it is a growing industry and good to see more avenues for those that are deaf or hearing impaired.
    (just to clarify, the above example was not in NZ but an overseas country)

    • b waghorn 6.1

      You would think that some one could come up with a voice recognition interpreter as a pH app in this day and age

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.2

      who is going to pay for it?

      Nah. Before you can make that stick, you have to establish that the benefits won’t outweigh the costs. Good luck with that.

      I note that deaf people are not the only ones who pay tax.

    • Almost Deaf 6.3

      The availability of sign interpreters is appalling and from what I know there is little regard for it at management levels.

      I was doing a signing course at the Deaf Institute in Auckland. One of the other students was a policeman, the child of two deaf parents. Several times a week he gets called to an emergency because the AKL police do not employ any signers. Nor does St. Johns, the Fire Service, hospitals, etc. Nor do the courts! Deaf people can get very angry when they are not understood. Then they go to jail because they did not have an adequate court room interpreter!

      For this policeman, this course was to update his vocabulary. Signing vocabulary changes so rapidly that teachers at Kelston School for the Deaf often can’t read the latest slang expressions the kids use when they sign to each other.

      The police did NOT pay his fees! Course fees came out of his own pocket!

      Do NOT spend money on signers for parliament and TV shows. ASK the DEAF Community what the best use of extra funds would be for THEM.

      Personally, I want emergency personal to have ready access to interpreters. But that costs money. Hearing people can’t learn it overnight.

      I know deaf people who have received dangerously incorrect medical treatment because medical staff were too busy to deal with their deafness. My own doctor has a rudimentary knowledge of sign. She says the first time a deaf patient comes to her and realizes she understands some sign, their face lights up like a child at Christmas.

      IMO what happens in Parliament is trivial compared to the day to day struggles of a deaf person living in hearing society.

      P.S. NZ sign is a beautiful, powerfully expressive language. “Little Red Riding Hood” is a riot in NZ sign. (Find it on YouTube and enjoy!)

      • While I absolutely support putting the money for interpretters where the deaf community most needs it, we should have enough resources to fund interpreters for the courts, for emergency callouts, AND for Parliament.

  7. kieron 7

    I do recall when i was younger (34 this june) that there was sign language on the news in germany (not on DW though)

  8. Almost Deaf 8

    But these days you can read the news online.

    Reading the news is a luxury (or maybe a trivial distraction) compared to the essential need to understand when you are in a critical health situation or the accused before the court.

    Do NOT take my word for it. ASK the deaf community what THEY need.

    Instead of top-down bureaucratic solutions, try democracy. You know, democracy, as in letting the people who are affected make the choices.

    • Karen 8.1

      You are absolutely right Almost Deaf re asking the deaf community what they need, but as a hearing person who has some awareness of the difficulties deaf people face I would agree with you that having access to interpreters in the health and justice areas is essential. This is certainly not happening currently.

      Basic sign language is not that difficult to learn and is actually quite a lot of fun. I did a course at AUT about 10 years ago and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be mandatory for those working in areas where they will be dealing with deaf people. It won’t reduce the need for more interpreters, but it would be helpful in some circumstances.

      • adam 8.1.1

        Great points Almost Deaf, and Karen.

        I agree Deaf should lead the conversation.

        But hearing people need to take some responsibility also.

      • Almost Deaf 8.1.2

        @ Karen

        I agree.

        But I wince when I read “mandatory.” I prefer incentives. For example, demonstrating a basic proficiency in sign could be considered an additional work qualification.

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    Well, if it’s an official language then it should be compulsory taught at school starting in the first year. Along with being taught the other two official languages. Give it a few years and we won’t need interpreters.

    • Almost Deaf 9.1

      Draco – Interesting that they do teach a very limited introduction to sign language in primary schools now. Only very basic things like learning the alphabet.

      I think it’s probably useful because it creates awareness among the hearing.

      Unless/Until we can mechanize language translation, we will definitely need interpreters.

  10. Rosemary McDonald 10

    Great post adam.

    To those of us who frequent various disability forums, the NZSL interpreting team doing their thing off to one side is completely normal. I often watch them, rather that the actual speaker….which is rude, I know…but Sign is a truly expressive language.

    And they should have the Sign box for parliament TV ALL the time, I watch that rather than the speaker, or the Speaker.

    And the Sign box for the news on telly….what better way to pick up a few words?

    Sign should be as ‘normal’ as English or Maori.
    Even a friendly “kia ora” can go down like a cup of cold sick.

    We have a way to go.

    • adam 10.1

      Thanks Rosemary McDonald, yes a long way to go.

      Most interpreters are use to being looked at, so it ant to rude.

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