New Zealand Celebrates Sign Language Week 2024

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This week, New Zealand shines a spotlight on its own Sign Language (NZSL), one of the country’s three official languages.

New Zealand Sign Language Week, running from May 6-12, 2024, is a special time for the Deaf community to share their culture and language, and to promote understanding and inclusion across the country.

The celebration of NZSL began in 2007, following its recognition as an official language in 2006. This milestone was achieved thanks to the persistent efforts of advocates like Member of Parliament Ruth Dyson, who worked tirelessly on behalf of the Deaf community.

Throughout the week, various activities are planned to increase awareness and appreciation of NZSL. Louise Upston, the Minister for Disability Issues, encourages all New Zealanders to try using NZSL, stating that about 23,000 New Zealanders use it as their main form of communication.

One of the highlights of this year’s NZSL Week was a unique flight by Air New Zealand. On a flight from Auckland to Wellington, the airline staff used NZSL to communicate with passengers. They signed everything from safety instructions to the in-flight service announcements. Passengers also had the chance to learn some NZSL, with cards illustrating signs for words like “water,” “cookie,” and “lolly” placed on their seats.

This initiative by Air New Zealand shows how NZSL can be used in everyday situations, even at 35,000 feet in the air!