Transcript of this morning’s sign language interview

This morning, the Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson was on TV One’s Breakfast talking about the report into New Zealand sign language that will be released this afternoon.

Ironically, they didn’t have interpreters so we have posted a rough transcript below for those of you who are interested.

Breakfast: Thousands of New Zealanders are being denied a basic human right that’s the finding of the Human rights commission inquiry into the use and promotion of sign language. The full report and its recommendations can only be revealed at parliament this afternoon but with a first insight into the inquiry is disability commissioner Paul Gibson.

First – why was an inquiry needed in the first place?

Paul Gibson: We looked at the complaints that that commission had received there had been changes in the deaf communities expectations about what was happening. First NZ sign language was made an official language in 2006, in 2008 NZ ratified the United Nations convention on the rights of people with disabilities and we are seeing sign language as a right, a right to communicate, a right for all people to express themselves, and the many of areas of life that deaf people and now we’re learning other people, couldn’t participate more, be included more fully just wasn’t happening because of the lack of interpreters, the lack of support, the lack of resources through the education system and we thought there was an opportunity to present a case and make a change

Q:So these big changes that you assumed would happen in 2006 haven’t happened, so what are the barriers that are stopping SL being a part of our everyday lives?

PG: It’s not visible at the moment, people don’t know it exists, that there is a deaf community out there and that this relates to a culture. It’s not resourced within our education system, it’s not promoted when we first identify a deaf or hearing impaired child to their families, families don’t know the opportunity that this creates. Too often these issues of disability and deafness are seen as a negative. We could aspire to be a more multi lingual society and this is part of how we could achieve it.

Q: As you say we liken the fact, that it’s an official language, we could liken it to English or Māori. Are there lessons to be learned from how Te Reo has been integrated into schools and communities. Is that a path we should follow?

PG: We have looked at the progress of Te Reo over the years. There has been the establishment of a Māori Language Commission to lead that promotion and we are looking at models like that. We’ve also looked at the role of families and communities, they have played a key role in how Te Reo has grown and we need to take on board some of those lessons for New Zealand Sign Language.

Q: I know we can’t talk about specific recommendations today but it’s inevitably going to cost money isn’t it?

PG: It is, but it’s not significant. And the contribution which deaf people and other people who potentially could make use of it is greater. I think we so underutilise the skills of many people in our population, we under educate, we can do a lot better. This is an investment.

Q: When people think of sign language the last prominent time people would have seen it would have been around the quakes, was that not a good example of how sign language is being used?

PG: It was great when it happened but there was a battle behind the scenes to make that happen. Deaf people in Canterbury were denied the basic information they needed to find water to find the support and resources that everyone needed during those times of earthquake, with a lack of communication through other ways. It was great when interpreters were eventually seen on TV alongside the people giving out the vital information through those emergencies but it did have to be fought for, that shouldn’t happen again.