Providing access to vital information about emergencies in NZSL

My name is Lara Draper, General Manager for Adults and Seniors at Deaf Aotearoa. Recently Lachlan Keating, Chief Executive, and I went to Jeju, South Korea to attend the World Federation of the Deaf Congress. There were about 2,000 people attending from 101 different countries.

On the first day of the congress, Lachlan and I presented about how in New Zealand we have improved access to vital emergency information. We explained that New Zealand was vulnerable to natural emergencies such as earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and flooding. And not to forget, we also went through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of you may remember the Christchurch Earthquakes. At that time there was no access to information in NZSL. No NZSL Interpreters were booked. The Deaf Community struggled to get access to the information that they needed.

Since then, Deaf Aotearoa has worked together with NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency) to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and approve access to information for the Deaf Community. For example; NZSL Interpreters are used on the screen at Press Briefings. This was clear and effective during the COVID-19 pandemic when Jacinda Adern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, gave her daily updates.

There have also been some resources developed such as the 25 Signs to know in an Emergency. This is a useful resource for those who work in Emergency Services to be able to download or grab a physical copy of this booklet.

We also have poster guidelines for camera operators to know how to frame the shot to include the NZSL Interpreter.

We explained all this during our presentation, and we also showed a video of Anthony Frith from NEMA explaining his relationship with Deaf Aotearoa. On their Civil Defence website, they have over 70 videos about being prepared in case of an emergency, and what to do during an emergency, and also after an emergency.

After the presentation, there was an opportunity for the audience to ask questions. We also gave them ideas on how they can return to their own countries and advocate for better access to information in their own sign languages.

1 thought on “Providing access to vital information about emergencies in NZSL”

  1. I am wanting a tutor for an adult community class to learn the basics of New Zealand Sign Language. We are in West Otago – Tapanui area.
    Ideally the class would be during the day on a Saturday either September 16th or 30th, but we are happy to consider other times more acceptable to the tutor.
    Most sincerely,
    Diane Glennie
    ( Hon. Pres. Moa Flat Rural Women of New Zealand.


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