Deaf Aotearoa was established in 1977 by Deaf people for the purpose of improving the lives of Deaf people through advocacy and services. Initially focusing on welfare services and advocating for interpreting services, Deaf Aotearoa has grown and evolved with the times, now advocating for equality for Deaf people across all areas of their lives.
The goal of equality and full participation for Deaf people is outlined in Deaf Aotearoa’s constitution and Strategic Direction. The Deaf community provide input to Deaf Aotearoa’s Strategic Direction which drives all Deaf Aotearoa’s advocacy work.
To help achieve this goal, Deaf Aotearoa works closely with Deaf communities, the Government, government agencies and other organisations to increase awareness, promote NZSL and strengthen the rights of Deaf people.
The Strategic Direction focus areas include:
- Promoting NZSL and Deaf culture
- Strengthen Deaf Aotearoa’s role as a Disabled Peoples Organisation (DPO)
- Supporting Deaf community sustainability
- Ensuring access to government, community, health and social services
- Ensuring access to education in NZSL
- Partnerships with allied organisations.
Advocacy happens at the local, national and international levels.
At a local level, Deaf Aotearoa staff advocate daily for service users’ rights to access the services and support they need and want, and for their local Deaf communities to access what they need and want. Examples include advocating for Deaf employees when there has been a breakdown in communication that could cause a Deaf person to lose their job; or working with local Work and Income offices to ensure NZSL interpreting services are provided for Deaf people’s appointments.
At the national level, Deaf Aotearoa works closely with the Government and government agencies to ensure that legislation and policy enables equitable lives for Deaf people. Deaf Aotearoa is the government-recognised DPO representing the interests of Deaf New Zealanders, and is a founding member of the DPO Coalition. Through its work with the DPO Coalition, Deaf Aotearoa ensures the voice of Deaf people is represented in the Government’s Disability Action Plan and in the implementation and monitoring of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).
At the international level, Deaf Aotearoa works with the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) to promote the human rights of Deaf people in New Zealand, Pacific Island countries and beyond. Currently, Deaf Aotearoa is supporting Victoria Manning, MNZM, to work closely with WFD. Victoria Manning was elected to the WFD Board for 2019 – 2023 and has been re-elected for 2023 – 2027. Previously, we also supported Mark Berry who was re-elected President of the WFD Youth Section Board for 2019 – 2023 after serving an initial four-year term from 2015. Mark Berry resigned from the WFD Youth Section Board in 2021.
Deaf people can also advocate for themselves. Did you know that New Zealand government departments should be guided by the following principles?:
- the Deaf community should be consulted on matters relating to NZSL (including, for example, the promotion of the use of NZSL)
- NZSL should be used in the promotion to the public of government services and in the provision of information to the public
- government services and information should be made accessible to the Deaf community through the use of appropriate means (including the use of NZSL).
This means you can ask for government services and information to be provided in NZSL.
Be specific. Explain that you need a qualified interpreter and if needed, tell them how to find an interpreter service provider to make the booking/s. Make your request as early as possible. If you have problems, get as much information as you can in writing. This documentation can help later on if you have to file a complaint.
More information about your rights to an interpreter can be found here: https://www.odi.govt.nz/nzsl/tools-and-resources/legal-requirements/
Not all government departments are familiar with these obligations. This resource provides guidance to government departments on how they can give effect to the above principles.
If you still get nowhere, contact us for advice and support: https://www.deaf.org.nz/contact/
Briefing to the Incoming Minister (BIM)
- BIM to Hon Poto Williams (16 September 2022)