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Dyson marks Deaf Awareness Week

Dyson marks Deaf Awareness Week

This week is Deaf Awareness Week and to mark it, Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson is congratulating government departments on initiatives designed to improve accessibility for deaf people.

"This Labour-led government has led the way this year with the passing of the New Zealand Sign Language Act, which made New Zealand Sign Language an official language of this country and provided people with the right to use and access sign language in legal proceedings, including in court.

"New Zealand Sign Language is part of New Zealand's rich cultural diversity. It is used by approximately 28,000 people - an estimated 7,000 of these people are Deaf."

Following on from the passing of the Act in April, government departments and agencies have developed initiatives aimed at deaf and hearing impaired citizens including:

The Ministry of Social Development is leading inter-agency work aimed at implementing New Zealand Sign Language interpreter standards, for use in criminal justice settings.

New Zealand Police is progressing initiatives designed to ensure all Police staff apply the principles of the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006 in matters relating to the deaf community.

Inland Revenue is consulting and working with the deaf community on the use of New Zealand Sign Language in service delivery and the provision of information.

The Ministry of Health is working on the removal of language barriers for deaf people. This includes implementing the Ministry's Access to New Zealand Sign Language interpreter policy, and working to improve services the Ministry funds via the Deaf Association.

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage is working with NZ On Air and TVNZ on their plans for improving deaf people's access to public broadcasting services.

The Labour-led government is also making some significant enhancements to the Telecommunications Relay Service, which enables communication via text or by using a relay assistant who serves as the "ears and voice" on phone calls between hearing impaired callers and those without.

The changes follow a review of how well the relay service is meeting the needs of its users, whose monthly call minutes doubled in the first year.

Other recommendations accepted by the Minister for Communications and the Minister for Disability Issues include providing additional one-to-one assistance to relay service users to increase their confidence in making relay calls; improving the speed of user connection to the relay service, and the consistency of service from relay assistants; and wider public education to increase use and familiarisation with the relay service.

In another move to mark Deaf Awareness Week, Television New Zealand is working with the National Foundation For The Deaf to raise awareness about what it is like to be hearing impaired through an on-air campaign where participating advertisers have periods of silence on selected ads.

"By declaring New Zealand Sign Language to be an official language of New Zealand, and through other government initiatives aimed at breaking down communications barriers to information, this government is acknowledging the Deaf community's presence, their rights and their equal value in our society."


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