A new government internet video service connecting deaf
people in Otago and Southland to a sign language interpreter
in Auckland will help with the ''terrible'' lack of
interpreters in the South, Otago Deaf Children Association
president Alan Hughes says.
Disability Issues Minister Tariana Turia said Video Remote
Interpreting (VRI) was being progressively rolled out at
government services across New Zealand.
''VRI is a simple, practical solution to the long-standing
difficulty that those who are deaf have experienced in
accessing services provided by government agencies.''
Previously, deaf people who lived outside Auckland or
Wellington, had to write notes at a meeting, or bring someone
who knew sign language, or the government agency had to
supply an interpreter.
''None of this supported great service delivery or an
efficient use of public money.''
Mr Hughes said it was important for a deaf person to be able
to communicate clearly.
''If you get one word wrong, it takes the whole context out
of a sentence and you could be off on a tangent and not even
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was
administering the new technology on behalf of the initial
participating government agencies - the Ministries of Social
Development, Health, and Education, and Accident Compensation
Mrs Turia said the introduction of VRI was timely, as it was
a priority recently highlighted by the Human Rights
Commission in its inquiry into New Zealand Sign Language.
Mr Hughes said the association had ''battled'' to get
improved services for deaf children.
''When they made New Zealand sign language an official
language, there was no funding that came with it, so although
it was supposed to be accessible as part of the school
curriculum, there was nobody there to teach anyone because
there was no interpreters and no funding to train them.''
Mrs Turia said VRI would be rolled out at locations where
there was a concentration of deaf people including Work and
Income in Dunedin, ACC and Child Youth and Family in
Invercargill and at schools in Gore, Wyndham and Waikouaiti.
Mr Hughes said deaf children had regular internal assessments
and if there was no interpreter it was difficult for a deaf
child to be included in the assessment.
The was a ''huge deficit'' in the number of interpreters in
Otago and Southland.
He knew of three interpreters in Otago and Southland but the
new technology would help with the ''terrible'' lack of
''It's a good idea and it will fill a few gaps.''
Mrs Turia said a deaf person needed to tell the government
agency that wanted to use a VRI at least two business days
before a meeting and it was the government agency's
responsibility to book the VRI and pay for it.