Deaf Aotearoa presented its “Deaf Way” Report to government agencies in Wellington on 29 November 2010. 

The report was commissioned by Deaf Aotearoa in 2009 to learn the current needs of Deaf people in New Zealand. It was commissioned in response to concerns that the organisation’s existing services did not meet the needs of the nearly 10,000 Deaf New Zealanders to truly participate in their local communities.

It was developed by Fitzgerald and Associates, after consultation with the Deaf community, and with the guidance of the Deaf Aotearoa Advisory Group and funding by the Disability Support Services and Ministry of Health.

The report identified the failings of mainstream services in acknowledging Deaf people’s language, culture and needs, as well as records the general feelings of disempowerment and isolation which are common in the Deaf community.

Despite a normal range of intellectual function, roughly 40 percent of Deaf people receiving service have high social needs, with low literacy and both minor and complex social problems. These people require social support, counseling and habilitation as a result.

Many Deaf have experienced mainstream services which fail to acknowledge their language, culture and needs.

The needs of Deaf people are clear:

  • Communication access to government services – the most important being health, emergency services, work and income and police.
  • Interpreters are the most wanted type of communication support, without long waiting times to book them.
  • Development of technology, particularly the advent of video interpreting is eagerly awaited.
  • Equipment is inadequate and expensive.
  • Access to public broadcasting and information provided in either captions or sign language.
  • High quality NZSL training for parents so they can communicate with their child from the earliest opportunity.
  • High quality NZSL training for schools and the wider community.
  • Services specific for Māori and Pacific Deaf that they are familiar with and respectfully acknowledges their own culture.
  • Residential and intensive social support for Deaf people with additional needs.
  • Training in Deaf awareness, life skills and professional development.

The Solution

While it is difficult to provide a service that meets all the needs of Deaf people (their needs span every aspect of life and every possible organisation as Deaf people wish to live ordinary lives in New Zealand communities), Deaf Aotearoa’s focus is on:

  • Being an expert in working with Deaf people (NZSL training, Deaf awareness, support, and advice to Government in providing access and information).
  • Providing social support services including intensive service coordination and peer support and community development.
  • Providing communication support (interpreting, remote video interpreting, etc).
  • Being a communication bridge between the hearing and Deaf worlds, including through media, research and persuasive policy advice to Government and close links to and networks with mainstream and other providers of Deaf services.

Deaf Aotearoa wants to help Deaf people advance in and contribute positively to society, as well as individually become more independent.

Working with the recommendations of the Deaf Way report, Deaf Aotearoa hopes to engage with all government departments individually and collectively to effectively address the issues raised in the report by Deaf New Zealanders.

Download the Deaf Way report!

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