PRESS RELEASE: Empowering Access – Deaf Aotearoa’s Role in Signing the Election Debates

Amazing work! I don’t know how the team does it when there is so much talking over the top of each other.

In a monumental effort, the team at Deaf Aotearoa embarked on a mission to usher in a new era of inclusion for the Deaf community across New Zealand during a pivotal event – the general election of 2023.

Our quest to ensure this election became the most accessible to the Deaf community in history began several months prior. Through collaborative efforts with numerous agencies, we pioneered ground-breaking initiatives.

Our work involved several integral teams within our organisation, including iSign, the Translation team, and the Information and Resources Team. Together, we diligently pursued our mission to bring access to the forefront of this critical election.

Awesome and Accessible!

One of our major accomplishments was ensuring that all election-related information, meticulously translated into New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), was readily available to our community. To achieve this, we created a dedicated landing page on our website where individuals could access essential election information in NZSL. Furthermore, the video clips of the live TVNZ debates were made accessible on this page, providing a wealth of information to our community members. You can explore it at

With funding from NZ on Air and support from Whaikaha, we collaborated with TVNZ and Kordia to ensure access was provided not only to the main TVNZ leaders’ debates but also to the minor party leaders’ debate.

The leaders debates with interpreters were fantastic! 100% access.

We are immensely proud to acknowledge the invaluable input of Deaf community leaders Sara Pivac-Alexander and Catherine Greenwood, who lent their expertise as the ‘Deaf lens’ to guide our work. Experienced Interpreter, Rosie Henley played a central role in drawing on their wisdom and expertise, ensuring that interpreters could deliver the clearest and most accurate interpretations.

This is real access – this is the most access I’ve had to these leaders and what they stand for. I can see what they say and their attitudes! Captions don’t give access like this. Thank you to the interpreting team in front of the camera and the support team behind – great work!

Rosie also brought in Angela Murray, another highly skilled interpreter, to supported the team of interpreters- throughout. General Manager of iSign, Mark Crooke, ensured that all logistics and support functions were covered and that the team were able to carry out the work.

Our team of interpreters came together from different parts of New Zealand, including Christchurch, Wellington, Gisborne, and Auckland, to ensure comprehensive accessibility.

To bolster the interpreters, we provided a wealth of online resources, including past debates, articles, and discussions via Slack. This platform allowed interpreters to collaboratively work on translating complex phrases typically used in debate forums, ensuring the best NZSL equivalents.

Given the unpredictable nature of debates, our team was poised to handle any unexpected developments. TVNZ was instrumental in providing studio and technical support. We also worked closely with Kordia TV to make the reverse picture-in-picture feature available on Ch200 and their site.

In an exciting development, we piloted additional access to the post-debate panel discussion. This was made possible by a separate team of interpreters, with in-house tech support. This innovation required community members to have two screens available – one for the TVNZ panel and the other to access our Zoom link with live interpreting.

The response to the access we provided has been overwhelmingly positive. For many in the community, our efforts offered more in-depth insights into the candidates, their personalities, and their responses to other parties and candidates.

“I loved watching in my language and seeing the attitudes of the leaders so clearly.”


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