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Health & disability

Your rights to use New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL)


NZSL is one of New Zealand’s official languages

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, s 20; New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006, ss 7, 9

Anyone in New Zealand has the right to speak any language they want, at any time. New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), along with te reo Māori, has special status as an official language of New Zealand. This means you are allowed to use it anywhere you like, and you can expect all government departments and staff to communicate with you in NZSL or to provide interpreters as necessary.

Do I have the right to use NZSL in a court?

New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006, s 7

Yes. If you are involved in any kind of court business, in any court in New Zealand, you have the right to use NZSL. This includes Tribunals and other bodies like the Tenancy Tribunal and the Employment Relations Authority. All you need to do is let the judge, or whoever is in charge, know at least 10 working days in advance so they can organise a free interpreter.

You have these rights if you’re involved in the case. It doesn’t matter if you’re the one bringing the case (taking your employer to the Employment Relations Authority for example), or you’re defending the case (when you’re charged with a crime in the District Court for example), or you’re a witness in the case.

For more information about using NZSL in a court, go to www.justice.govt.nz and search “Interpreters, language & disability access”.

Government departments are expected to be accessible to NZSL users

New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006, s 9

As far as is practical, government departments like Work and Income, the police, and Inland Revenue must make their services and information accessible to users of NZSL, including by using NZSL themselves.

If possible, you should let staff members know in advance that they will need to provide an interpreter.

How do I get NZSL in these places?

You can tell the department if you have special requirements, and they will do their best to book an appropriate interpreter. For instance, you can say you want someone of the same gender as you for a health-related appointment, or someone familiar with older or younger people’s signing styles. If they can’t provide exactly what you want, the staff should work with you to come to an arrangement that will work.

You should never need to pay for the interpreter yourself.

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Disability rights

Where to go for more support

COVID-19 information


The Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) has up-to-date COVID-19 information for the disabled community on their website. They also post new information on their Facebook page and their Information Exchange newsletter. You can sign up by going to the website linked above. For more information about DPA, see below.

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Auckland Disability Law



ADL provides assistance and referrals to disabled people on their legal issues, and work with other Community Law Centres, legal professionals and community organisations to raise disability awareness and achieve the best outcome for disabled people.

Office for Disability Issues


The Office for Disability Issues is the focal point in government on disability issues.

Human Rights Commission


This page on the HRC website focuses on the Commission’s work around both individual and systemic disability discrimination. There are resources available in multiple accessible formats.

Health and Disability Commissioner


Phone: 0800 11 22 33
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz

The Health and Disability Commissioner has a range of pamphlets and other information on health and disability issues.

Contact a Health and Disability Advocate

Phone: 0800 555 050

Make a complaint to the Commissioner

Phone: 0800 11 22 33
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz

PO Box 1791, Auckland

You can make a complaint by phoning the Commissioner’s office toll-free, by email, by filling in the online complaint form or by writing to them.

Ministry of Health Services and Support


Publicly funded health and disability services available in New Zealand.

Disabled Persons Assembly


The DPA is a pan-disability organisation. DPA works to improve social indicators for disabled people and for disabled people be recognised as valued members of society. DPA and its members work with the wider disability community, other disabled persons’ organisations, government agencies, service providers, international disability organisations and the public.

People First


People First New Zealand is a self-advocacy organisation that is led and directed by people with learning (intellectual) disability. People First has a free Disability Information and Advice Service and they also produce legal resources in Easy Read form which are free to download from their website.

Deaf Aotearoa


Deaf Aotearoa is a national organisation representing the voice of Deaf people, and the national service provider for Deaf people in New Zealand.

Deaf Aotearoa also works closely with Deaf communities, government agencies and other organisations to increase awareness, promote New Zealand Sign Language and strengthen the rights of Deaf people.

Family Violence – It’s Not OK


Phone: 0800 456 450

“It’s not OK” is a community-driven behaviour change campaign to reduce family violence in New Zealand. Its goal is to change attitudes and behaviour that tolerate any kind of family violence. The website has resources for families who are experiencing abuse. It’s not OK is an initiative housed within the Ministry of Social Development.

Family violence and disabled people


Inclusive Education


This site provides New Zealand educators with practical strategies, suggestions and resources to support the diverse needs of all learners.

Attitude Toolbox: The Whole Truth about Courts and Justice


This accessible video has information about the New Zealand justice system and courts. The video is presented in New Zealand Sign Language and fully subtitled in English.

New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal


This Tribunal hears and determines disciplinary proceedings brought against health practitioners.

Public Trust


Public Trust is New Zealand’s largest provider of Wills and estate administration services.

Te Rōpū Taurima


Te Rōpū Taurima is a kaupapa Māori service that supports people of all ethnicities with intellectual impairments around New Zealand.

Le Va


Le Va supports Pasifika families and communities to unleash their full potential and have the best possible health and wellbeing outcomes.

Blind Low Vision NZ

(previously called Blind Foundation)


Blind Low Vision NZ is New Zealand’s main provider of support to New Zealanders who are blind or have low vision.



Phone: 0800 24 33 33

Achieve is a national network established to ensure equal opportunity and access to post-secondary education and training for people with impairments.

Privacy Commissioner


Phone: 0800 803 909
Email: enquiries@privacy.org.nz

You can download the pamphlet “Your Health Information: Know Your Privacy Rights” from the Privacy Commissioner’s website, at: www.privacy.org.nz

You can also download a copy of the Health Information Privacy Code from: www.privacy.org.nz/the-privacy-act-and-codes/codes-of-practice/health-information-privacy-code-1994

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