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Better, easier access to frontline govt for Deaf NZers

Hon Tariana Turia
Minister for Disability Issues


17 May 2013 Press Release

Better, easier access to frontline government services for Deaf New Zealanders

Deaf people will soon have easier access to frontline government services thanks to a new video remote interpreter service. Video remote interpreting uses video internet technology to connect a remotely-based New Zealand Sign Language interpreter with a face-to-face meeting between a hearing government worker and a Deaf person.

“Video remote interpreting will have a very real impact on the ability of Deaf people to access government services in a more timely and responsive manner, using their own language - New Zealand Sign Language. I’m pleased to be able to announce this positive contribution from the Government to cap off the many activities that occurred over this week, New Zealand Sign Language week 13 to 17 May 2013”, says Disability Issues Minister Tariana Turia.

“ACC and the Ministries of Education, Health and Social Development have provided $300,000 per annum for this service. The roll out of the new service will start with their services in provincial areas, which are more affected by a shortage of sign language interpreters, from 1 September 2013. Information on video remote interpreting, and how to use it, will be shared with the Deaf community from August 2013.”

The introduction of video remote interpreting delivers on a key recommendation from the 2010 Review of the New Zealand Sign Language Act, which found that Deaf people experience communication difficulties in accessing services from government agencies. This has been an on-going problem for Deaf people, particularly outside of the main cities, due to the low number of qualified New Zealand Sign Language interpreters and the fact that most interpreters are concentrated in the big cities, especially Auckland. A Deaf Advisory Group working with government agencies identified developing a video remote interpreting service as the highest priority for addressing this issue.

“The Government is committed to removing barriers to people being able to participate and contribute to their community. We are fortunate that evolving technology and broadband capacity around the country means video remote interpreting is possible and affordable. This is an excellent example of government agencies working together to provide a cross-government solution to a long-standing problem affecting some New Zealanders”, says Mrs Turia.

ENDS

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