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With Sign Language Rights, Our Children Can!

With Sign Language Rights, Our Children Can!

New Zealand’s Deaf community is marking this week’s International Week of the Deaf (IWD) with a renewed focus on children. IWD is an annual initiative by the World Federation of the Deaf, for which Deaf Aotearoa is the New Zealand representative.

Deaf Aotearoa President Robert Hewison says representing the collective voice of several thousand Deaf New Zealanders makes IWD a significant occasion for the organisation.

“We’re proud to ensure the Deaf community’s needs and expectations are made clear,” he says.

Robert says this year’s IWD theme, ‘With Sign Language Rights, Our Children Can!’ is a clear reflection of what New Zealand’s Deaf community has been saying for so long.

“Deaf children need access to sign language, to be able to connect with their friends and family, both Deaf and hearing, using their own natural language.”

As a result, Deaf Aotearoa is celebrating the recent rapid expansion of First Signs, a service that provides New Zealand Sign Language teaching and support for families of Deaf children aged 0 – 5. First Signs was established in 2014 and initially available in limited locations. The service, based around home visits by First Signs facilitators, is now available throughout the country, nine years ahead of its planned nationwide rollout.

“Deaf children need to be able to access education through sign language. First Signs gives those children and their families access to the language which is critical to their emotional and mental wellbeing and development,” explains Robert.

Workshops on IWD and this year’s child-focused theme are also being held for the Deaf community throughout New Zealand this week. For more information on First Signs, visit www.deaf.org.nz/services/first-signs


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