More than 1000 ask for sign language to return to Parliament

More than 1000 people are urging Parliament to reinstate sign language interpretation for all the sittings of the House, after it was removed last October due to concerns resources were being stretched. 

Kim Robinson, who is the chair of Deaf Action NZ, began the petition independently, saying it was essential official languages should be included in the highest decision making body in the country. 

"New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is an official language and needs to be treated as such. I am confident when the Speaker receives the Petition that progress of reinstating NZSL interpretation will happen."

The petition has so far generated 1,209 as of midday today. 

National MP Dr Shane Reti would be receiving the petition on February 6, saying it was "disappointing that the new Parliament made a token gesture towards maintaining sign language at question time but when a few small hurdles came up it was readily axed".

Dr Reti criticised the recent omission of sign language interpreters after the announcement of the Meningitis outbreak in Northland.

"This is an issue of great concern for the hearing impaired in Northland and further highlights the Government's poor response.

"I will be supporting the petition of Deaf Action NZ and I challenge the Parliament to work with hearing impaired leaders to fix this mess."

In October, Clerk of the House of Representatives David Wilson told 1 NEWS said it was a joint decision with Deaf Aotearoa, "and we've been told that having interpreters at Parliament every day that the House sits is putting a lot of pressure on the services they offer in other areas like at the doctor, in schools or when getting legal advice".

He said NZSL interpretation would return to Question Time during New Zealand Sign Language Week, and Budget Day for the Budget Statement.

Also in October, acting Clerk of the House of Representatives Suze Jones said an open tender was launched for a provider to interpret Question Time.

"Unfortunately, we did not receive any tenders from suppliers who could do the work on an ongoing basis at this time. iSign did provide excellent services for several months, but after discussion with Deaf Aotearoa on the impact this was having on community needs, we decided to end the service for now."

NZSL interpreter during Parliament sitting. Source: Parliament TV