TVNZ Refuse To Incorporate NZSL Interpreters Into Future Live Debates

New Zealand’s deaf community have every right to be outraged after TVNZ decline to use NZSL interpreters in future live debates. 

The ironic aspect to all of this is that TVNZ CEO Ken Kenrick said that the broadcaster acknowledges and respects that sign language is recognised as the third official language of New Zealand. And yet, this is not enough to change his stance on the matter, nor is it enough for the broadcaster to find a way to incorporate an interpreter in future televised debates prior to the election.

Instead, TVNZ say that captioning is sufficient, and this will be the status quo on election night.

Broadcaster Refuse To Incorporate NZSL Interpreters Into Future Live Debates

It is just another example of New Zealand’s less fortunate having their basic human rights overlooked, regardless of how TVNZ want to frame their response. TVNZ should have thought of how they would accommodate an interpreter months in advanced, and consulted the deaf community on what the best course of action would be.

Prior to the debates, over 800 people signed a petition sent to TVNZ requesting that sign language be used in the televised debates. This came after TVNZ confirmed they wouldn’t consider having interpreters at the leaders debates.

“Logistical Reasons”

Kenrick cited “logistical reasons” for not being able to accomodate an interpreter in TVNZ’s live news productions.

Live TV debates are highly dynamic. They are quick fire exchanges, split second shifts between close-ups and wide shots of the participants and people talk over one another. We are not set up to introduce sign language interpreters into an already complex broadcast environment.

It continues a sorry trend for disability issues during this election. At National’s campaign launch, Special Education was overlooked, and at Monday’s #MyVoiceMatters candidates debate, no party managed to convince on any of their policies.

Special Education Dismissed By National At Campaign Launch

Unsurprisingly, Special Education is not high on the priority list for National if they are to be re elected after the 2017 General Election.

The total investment into education is $379 million across a variety of different policies. So where does Special Education fit into it all? The $379 plan doesn’t speak a whole lot to Special Education. It certainly doesn’t tackle the issue of disabled learners being unfairly discriminated against.

Instead, National have promised that every child will get the opportunity to learn a second language.

Wagner Defends PM: “There Are Thousands Of Disabled People”

On Sunday, Minister for Disability Issues Nicky Wagner said that Prime Minister Bill English was a great supporter of the disability community.

“Today, he made Enabling Good Lives the centrepiece of the National Party’s campaign launch. He said that there are thousands of disabled people in New Zealand and that National respects their capabilities.”

Wagner says that the second language option used in schools could be New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). However, Wagner didn’t provide any concrete promises.

Special Education Dismissed By National At Campaign Launch

There are far more pressing issues at hand in regards to Special Education in New Zealand. A simple promise to ‘deliver’ on Enabling Good Lives and provide the opportunity for learners to learn NZSL is not enough.

Disabled children need a fairer access to education. This starts with better education for teachers and support staff, but it also needs to be tailored to the needs of each individual. For example, the needs for a student with a physical disability are often entirely different to those with an intellectual disability.

Does National’s plan enforce schools to enrol students with additional requirements? No. Does it tackle the issue of principles bullying parents into getting their disabled child out of school? No.

The time old argument that the education system has made is that teachers are not equipped to ‘deal with’ children with special education needs. Well, get them equipped, and fast. National’s plan doesn’t put any pressure on schools to change their current attitudes toward taking on learners with disabilities.

What’s clear is that there is no tolerance of increased needs and additional support requirements by the education system. The bare minimum amount of funding has to stretch across the board, and often Special Education sits right at the bottom of it all.

National has promised little, to no assurance that this won’t continue if they get re elected come September 23rd.