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New Zealand begins developing online guidance for government departments on NZ Sign Language Act

Smiling deaf senior couple talking using sign language on the digital tablet's cam

New Zealand government departments will better understand their obligations under the New Zealand Sign Language Act (NZSL) 2006 thanks to online guidance being developed for the Office of Disability Issues by the Superdiversity Institute of Law, Policy, and Business and Chen Palmer.

The Superdiversity Institute and Chen Palmer announced that they have been awarded a contract to develop the online guidance, which will cover the purpose and the principles of the NZSL Act, the obligations on Government departments and what they mean in practice for government departments, and how those departments can measure their compliance with the purpose, principles and obligations under the NZSL Act.

Superdiversity Institute Chair and Chen Palmer Managing Partner, Mai Chen said, “NZSL is recognised as one of the three official languages of New Zealand under the Act, however only 0.5% (22,986 people) of the population use it, and therefore it is considered a threatened language. The online publication will provide plain English, easy to understand, and legally accurate guidance to government departments so that they meet their commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and their obligations under the NZSL Act. It is so important that New Zealanders who need sign language to communicate can properly interface with government; the plain English guidance will mean that Government can communicate more effectively with NZSL users and the Deaf community.”]

The Superdiversity Institute has unique expertise for this project, informed by its association with Chen Palmer, a public law specialist firm. Our expertise includes interpreting and advising Government departments on their statutory obligations, and advising disability organisations, on the needs of New Zealand’s superdiverse population.

“Chen Palmer has provided expert advice to disability organisations on the New Zealand Government’s compliance with the UNCRPD, and we have also provided legislative analysis of the then Sign Language Act 2006 to other organisations. We look forward to working with the Office of Disability Issues and New Zealand Sign Language Board on these guidelines that will lead to government departments ensuring they meet the language needs of NZSL users and the Deaf community.”

The Superdiversity Institute and Chen Palmer will undertake consultation with a range of Deaf stakeholders, and deliver the guidance to the Office of Disability Issues in June 2021. An overview of the guidance will be produced in English and NZSL.

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