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Working with Deaf people in health settings

People working Deaf people in health settings

Working with Deaf people in health settings

Useful information for people working with the Deaf community:

  1. Qualified New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreters should be used during most interactions
  2. The use of non-qualified interpreters (family, friends and staff) is not often appropriate.  Research indicates a significant amount of information is missed or misinterpreted
  3. Many Deaf people have limited literacy due to poor access to education so writing notes may be ineffective
  4. Lip-reading has an estimated 30% accuracy, hence the importance of using qualified NZSL interpreters
  5. Many Deaf people don’t like the term ‘hearing impaired’ as they don’t see themselves as having something that is wrong with them
  6. Many Deaf people identify themselves as part of a linguistic and cultural minority who share cultural norms like other cultural minority groups
  7. Deaf people are visual. Face the person when talking/signing don’t turn away
  8. Speak clearly and slowly and ensure good lightening, don’t yell
  9. Take the time to check the Deaf person has understood. If not repeat using brief notes, gesture, drawing or pictures to explain


Booking NZSL interpreters

There are 3 main NZSL interpreter booking agencies in NZ,  (https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/languages/n/nz-sign-language-interpreters/).

Only iSign and the NZ Video Interpreting Service (NZVIS) are funded to provide interpreters free for most health and disability related appointments (excluding DHBs who pay). 


Phone: 0800 934 683

Free text: 3359

Email: bookings@isign.co.nz       


New Zealand Video Interpreting Service (NZVIS)

Free call: 0800 4877877


Wordsworth Interpreting:

Free call: 0800 967 379

SMS: 027296 7379

Email: bookings@wordsworth.nz  


Connect Interpreting:

Phone and text: 021961815

Email: book@connectinterpreting.co.nz 





Paying for interpreters:

See the table below for more information about who pays:

New Zealand Government agencies and Crown entities

Police, Work and Income (WINZ), Oranga Tamariki (old CYFS),  ACC, Courts, Councils, DHB Hospitals,  Parliament


Health and disability services

Health appointments, GPs, Private hospitals, Housing, Banks and budgeting,  Parenting and childcare, Disability services, Legal appointments, Driving courses and tests,  Funerals and Tangi, Support services (eg: Women's Refuge)


Employment / Work training

Interpreting services for work jobs may be paid for by WORKBRIDGE Job Support Funds or Training Support Funds.

Deaf people must apply to Workbridge for access to this funding. Deaf Aotearoa Facilitators can help you with your application.



Deaf parents’ access to their children’s schooling, e.g.: enrolments, parent-teacher interviews, special assemblies, prize-givings school productions.


Not funded

Churches, Family reunions,  Weddings, Parties



Overview of NZSL: https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/languages/n/nz-sign-language/#Overview

Staff training videos: Communicating with people from the Deaf community for better health outcomes within a health setting (14min): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHawe_dDsTw&feature=youtu.be

Research: What did Deaf people tell us about their experiences accessing healthcare? https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal-articles/deaf-new-zealand-sign-language-users-access-to-healthcare

Following are 11 short videos translated into NZSL summarising the research: https://www.ccdhb.org.nz/your-health/disability-responsiveness/new-zealand-sign-language-and-deaf-resources/


Where to learn NZSL

There is a list of NZSL classes available at http://teachsign.org.nz/students.

Alternatively, you can learn NZSL online at http://www.learnnzsl.nz/#/id/co-01.




Other work areas

Policy - People working Deaf people in health settings | Platform Trust


Contributing to policy development, as well as providing a policy library and a range of publications to support the sector.

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Advocacy - People working Deaf people in health settings | Platform Trust


Fostering strategic partnerships and alliances to achieve a strong and sustainable mental health and addiction NGO and community sector.

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