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October 24, 2003

Government to recognise NZ Sign Language

From: (press release), New Zealand - Oct 24, 2003

Press Release: New Zealand Government

Government to recognise NZ Sign Language

The government has signalled its intention to recognise New Zealand Sign Language as the third official language of New Zealand.

This week Cabinet agreed to the introduction of a NZ Sign Language Bill to Parliament by the end of the year.

Minister for Disability Issues Ruth Dyson says the purpose of official recognition is to acknowledge Deaf people’s language as a unique New Zealand language and give it equal status to that of spoken languages.

“The decision to officially recognise NZ Sign language represents a significant step forwards for the Deaf community in New Zealand, as it is the first language for a large number of Deaf New Zealanders. The Deaf community, and the Deaf Association of New Zealand, have been seeking official recognition of their language for 20 years.

“NZ Sign Language is the basis of Deaf culture. It is essential for effective daily communication and participation in society. Official recognition will improve acknowledgement of NZ Sign Language as a real language and decrease injustices experienced by Deaf people. There are 28,000 people in NZ who use NZ Sign Language. “The immediate effect of the Bill, once it is passed into law, will be to provide people with the right to use NZ Sign Language in any legal proceedings, including in court. “Further developments will proceed gradually, and Cabinet has also agreed to look at ways to improve access to NZ Sign Language in education, health, employment and public broadcasting, as well as for Maori Deaf,” Ruth Dyson said.

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