New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is one of Aotearoa’s official languages yet only about 0.5% of the population are able to use it to hold a conversation. While there have been significant improvements over the past 30 years in creating Deaf-inclusive environments, there is still more work to be done.
Growing up with three Deaf sisters has given Kevin O’Neill a detailed knowledge of the issues faced by New Zealand’s Deaf community.
“I’ve grown up within the Deaf culture and learnt NZSL, so I understand the isolation that comes with deafness. Growing up, I’ve always interpreted and explained things for my sisters,” says Kevin, a MAS Member and Board Member of Deaf Aotearoa.
Kevin says these issues are particularly pressing when it comes to accessing healthcare. A lack of healthcare professionals able to use NZSL and limited access to interpreters can leave Deaf people unable to understand what’s going on, which is not only frustrating but raises legal questions too.