1. Introduction

What's on this page


Whaikaha - Ministry of Disabled People acknowledges the support and assistance of:

  • The Superdiversity Institute for Law, Policy and Business for developing this guide.
  • Deaf organisations (including the New Zealand Sign Language Board and Deaf Aotearoa) and members of the Deaf community for sharing their views and experiences. Unattributed quotes from people who participated in our public engagement process are included throughout this guide.
  • Government departments for sharing information about their use of NZSL to provide information and promote their services, and the accessibility of their services to the Deaf community.

Who is this guide for?

The New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006 external applies to the departments and ministries (“departments”) listed in Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Ombudsmen Act 1975 external, so this guide is for them.

The guide is also relevant to other government agencies that are bound by statutory non-discrimination provisions, and must have regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“the Disability Convention”) (see Other relevant frameworks for more information).

This guide is also for the Deaf community and people who are Deaf, to be able to know what standards they can expect departments to adhere to in their dealings with them.

In this guide

The New Zealand Sign Language (“NZSL”) Act external was passed in 2006 in order to promote and maintain the use of NZSL.

The Act makes NZSL an official language and provides for the use of NZSL in legal proceedings.

It also sets out principles to guide public service departments and ministries when exercising their functions and powers.

This is a practical guide for departments on how to give effect to the principles through their policies and practices in order to promote access to government information and services for the Deaf community.

The guide covers:

  • Important context - The Deaf community, Deaf culture and NZSL
  • The guiding principles 

Understanding the guiding principles under the NZSL Act

  • Giving effect to the guiding principles

Practical guidance for departments on how to give effect to the principles

  • Other relevant frameworks

Other statutory, policy and international frameworks relevant to how departments and other government agencies engage with the Deaf community.

  • More help and guidance

Other resources and people who can help