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The New Zealand Sign Language Bill (A) 2005-28.1

26 June 2005



In June 2003 in Wellington, Samantha Wilson, an Office of Disability Issues policy analyst, reflected on consultations with 27 government agencies on draft provisions for a New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) Bill. She knew that the Deaf community sought a spectrum of enforceable “language rights”. To start scoping the Bill, ODI set up a Deaf Advisory Group to meet with over 250 from the Deaf community who described low awareness of Deaf people within the State sector and wider society, poor access to government services, and inadequate funding and development of sign language interpreter services. The initial ideas for the Bill, however, were compromised when it became clear that the 27 agencies could not implement anything very far from the status quo, because of resource limitations. Samantha needed to recast the Bill’s objectives in a way that would be acceptable to both government and the Deaf community.

This case looks at policy trade-offs where “rights” are an issue and the need to find an appropriate balance. Part A can be discussed from the perspective of both government and Deaf community stakeholders and gives an overview of the “rights” addressed in this case.

Authors: Amanda Wolf
Published Date: 26 June 2005
Author Institution: Victoria University of Wellington
Product Type: Case with teaching note, Part A, Primary resources