New Zealand Sign Language Week 2021
To ensure we were keeping the Deaf community engaged with our planning, we sent out a survey following last year’s NZSL Week, which was held in September due to COVID-19 disruptions, and asked the Deaf community whether they wanted to continue with NZSL Week in September, or to return to our usual timing in May. A significant majority supported the return to May, which meant we had a short timeframe to organise this year’s NZSL Week, however it was successful in its national campaign to continue raising public awareness and respect for our language, NZSL.
The week kicked off with our biennial NZSL Week Breakfast held in the Banquet Hall in Parliament hosted by the Minister for Disability Issues, Hon Carmel Sepuloni. We also had another successful NZSL Week Leaders’ Challenge, with Prime Minister Hon Jacinda Ardern leading it for the third time. Over 70 leaders from across the country took part in the Leaders’ Challenge this year.
We delivered a new initiative, with NZSL Week Community Events Grants funding provided by the NZSL Board, to provide funding for local Deaf community events. This enabled Deaf clubs, Deaf businesses and other community groups to organise their own NZSL Week events. It was exciting to see the enthusiasm from the organisers doing their own events for their local communities. Seventeen events were organised by these community groups all over New Zealand with 547 participants involved. Some events included a Deaf-led tour of the lower South Island by Deaf Adventures and Deaf Deaf World events inviting NZSL learners to experience briefly what Deaf people face every day. Additionally, 29 events including family fun days and activities were organised by Deaf Aotearoa staff throughout New Zealand – from NZSL inspired art, to walk and bike adventures and Mega Air Trampolining, as well as cultural tours and building relationships with local services.
NZSL Week also coincided with Youth Week this year and we took the opportunity to collaborate with Ara Taiohi, the peak body for Youth Development. We created fun NZSL Week stickers and created a youth-focused video busting myths about Deaf people, which was posted to our social media platforms.
We were excited to collaborate with Garage Project for the third year running, with a new edition of Talk to the Hand beer launched for the occasion. Six events were held at bar venues with staff on hand to teach NZSL and celebrate the end of the week with a NZSL Week beer.
Over 400 NZSL Taster Classes were delivered at council libraries, schools, businesses and government organisations. This year, our Taster Classes were supported by 50 NZSL Tutors and were attended by over 4,500 people.
This year we have established a new group – the NZSL Week Advisory Group. There are six members, three from the Deaf community and three Deaf Aotearoa staff. This group will provide feedback and advice for future NZSL weeks.
We look forward to NZSL Week 2022, which will be held in the second week of May – a tradition for many years and still appreciated today.