United Nations announces International Day for Sign Languages

  • Hon Carmel Sepuloni
Disability Issues

Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni, welcomes the UN announcement that there will be a new International Day for Sign Languages. This day will be celebrated each year on 23 September to promote sign languages as being equal to spoken languages.

Minister Sepuloni says, “New Zealand is one of few countries that has sign language as an official language. We are recognised as a world leader for our commitment in recognising and promoting the use of sign language.

“New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is used by approximately 20,000 people, including 4,000 Deaf people who use NZSL as their primary form of communication (Census 2013).

“However, research suggests that although recognition of NZSL is improving, acquisition is declining. This means that NZSL can officially be described as a threatened language.

“Government has responsibility for promoting and protecting our official languages. Both NZSL and te reo Māori are vital to our expression of culture and identity in Aotearoa.

“Language is so important for opening up a wealth of opportunities to people – social, cultural, educational and employment. It is a matter of human rights that we embrace NZSL to promote equal opportunities for Deaf people.

“The International Day for Sign Languages, starting in 2018, provides another opportunity to raise awareness of NZSL in addition to our national NZSL Week, held each year in May.

“The day will be a celebration for Deaf people in New Zealand, an occasion to feel proud of their language, to promote it within the Deaf community, and to reach out to the Deaf community abroad.

“It will also contribute to raising public awareness of all New Zealanders about the importance of sign language to the Deaf community.”

 NB: to view in NZSL please visit: https://www.odi.govt.nz/nzsl/news/united-nations-announces-international-day-for-sign-languages/

Media contact: Amanda Snow 021 282 0078