Easier access to services for Deaf people
Minister for Disability Issues
Friday 4 October 2013
Easier access to services for Deaf
Minister for Disability Issues, Tariana Turia announced the introduction of a brand new service today to help make government services more accessible to Deaf people.
Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) is being progressively rolled out around the country in key government services. It connects a Deaf person to a New Zealand Sign Language interpreter based in an Auckland call centre via an internet video connection and to a face-to-face meeting with a government service worker.
“VRI is a simple, practical solution to the long-standing difficulty that those who are deaf have experienced in accessing services provided by government agencies,” says Mrs Turia.
“Previously, if a Deaf person lived outside of Auckland or Wellington, then they either had to make do by writing notes during a meeting or bringing someone along they knew could sign a little, or else the government agency had to bring in an interpreter. None of this supported great service delivery or an efficient use of public money, or a good use of interpreters.”
“VRI is a welcome improvement. It will help those who are deaf get what they need, when they need it, on an equal basis with others. VRI is also a great example of agencies working together on a common platform to meet a gap in their services impacting on disabled people.”
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is administering VRI on behalf of the initial participating government agencies: the Ministries of Social Development, Health, and Education, and ACC.
“I am pleased that the Government is supporting an initiative that directly addresses communication barriers experienced by those who are deaf. The introduction of VRI is timely, as it was a priority recently highlighted by the Human Rights Commission in their inquiry into New Zealand Sign Language,” says Mrs Turia.
Introduction of VRI is being initially targeted at locations where there is a concentration of Deaf people:
• Ministry of Health - District Health Boards/medical centres: Whanganui, Wellington region, and Nelson
• ACC – Whangarei, Whanganui, Gisborne, Invercargill
• Ministry of Social Development – Work and Income: Dunedin, Gisborne, Hamilton, Kaitaia, Napier, Nelson, Palmerston North Regional Office, Rotorua, Canterbury Regional Office, Timaru, Whanganui, Whangarei Regional Office; and Child Youth and Family: Greymouth, Invercargill, Tauranga
• Ministry of Education – schools in Stratford, Wairoa, Levin, Leeston, Gore, Wyndham, Dobson, Hawera, Shannon, Motueka, Ranfurly, Waikouaiti, Hastings, Taipa, Coromandel, Raglan, Whangamata, and Murupara.
Deaf Aotearoa are working with MBIE and the participating agencies to ensure that the Deaf community know about VRI and how to use it.
More information on VRI is available online at: www.vri.govt.nz
Questions and answers
How does VRI work?
A deaf person will need to
tell the government agency that they want to use VRI at
least 2 business days before a meeting. It is the government
agency’s responsibility to book VRI and to pay for it.
How is VRI provided?
Sprint International New Zealand is providing VRI by utilising the infrastructure already in place for the Video Relay Service. Sprint also provides the Telecommunication Relay Service, Video Relay Service, and Captioned Telephone Service, which enable communication for Deaf, deaf-blind, hearing impaired and speech impaired people.
Where did VRI come from?
VRI was an initiative made possible by the Chief Executives’ Group on Disability Issues, which agreed to establish VRI and oversaw the pooling of funds from participating agencies. The Office for Disability Issues provided support and coordination to implement the group’s decision.
Executives’ Group is chaired by the Ministry of Social
Development, with other government agencies as members. This
group coordinates action across government agencies
impacting on disabled people and reports to the Ministerial
Committee on Disability Issues, which is chaired by the
Minister for Disability Issues.
Where will VRI be available?
The Ministry of Education is supporting VRI being available in schools that do not have local NZSL interpreters:
• Stratford High School, Stratford
• Wairoa College, Wairoa
• Waiopehu College, Levin
• Ellesmere College, Leeston
• Gore High School, Gore
• Menzies College, Wyndham
• Paparoa Range School, Dobson
• Hawera Intermediate, Hawera
• Shannon School, Shannon
• Motueka South School, Motueka
• St John's School (Ranfurly), Ranfurly
• Waikouaiti School, Waikouaiti
• Ebbert Park School, Hastings
• Taipa Area School, Taipa
• Coromandel Area School, Coromandel
• Raglan Area School, Raglan
• Whangamata Area School, Whangamata
• Murupara Area School, Murupara.
The Ministry of Health is supporting VRI being available in District Health Boards/medical centres initially in Whanganui, Wellington region, and Nelson and a phased rollout across the country thereafter.
ACC is supporting VRI being available initially in its offices in Whangarei, Whanganui, Gisborne, and Invercargill.
Ministry of Social Development is supporting VRI being available initially in:
• Work and Income offices in Dunedin, Gisborne, Hamilton, Kaitaia, Napier, Nelson, Palmerston North Regional Office, Rotorua, Canterbury Regional Office, Timaru, Whanganui, Whangarei Regional Office
• Child Youth and Family offices in Greymouth, Invercargill, Tauranga.
Will VRI be extended into other areas?
MBIE will work with government agencies, Deaf Aotearoa, and Sprint to review how VRI is working and identify other locations for introduction over time.
What is the Government’s response to the Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into New Zealand Sign Language?
The Human Rights Commission
inquiry’s report focused on three main areas:
• promotion and maintenance of New Zealand Sign Language
• communication, information and services, and the right to freedom of expression and opinion through the provision of professional NZSL interpreter services and other NZSL services and resources.
The Ministry of Education has established a sector reference group, involving Deaf people, to develop actions to improve access to New Zealand Sign Language in schools.
The Ministry of Social Development has established an experts advisory group, with a majority of members who are Deaf, to develop options on longer term mechanisms to promote and maintain New Zealand Sign Language.
The introduction of Video Remote
Interpreting is a key action to improve access to government
How will VRI impact NZSL interpreters?
VRI will be useful in locations where there are no local NZSL interpreters available.
It will also provide another career opportunity for interpreters.
As well, the
reduction in interpreters having to travel long distances to
support Deaf people accessing services will mean those
interpreters are freed up for interpretation work in their