A guide to working with New Zealand Sign Language interpreters

In this guide, you will find advice on how to achieve effective communication with Deaf people, through your contact with service users, work colleagues, or generally as citizens. Working with sign language interpreters is usually critical to making effective communication happen. Written English is not an adequate or suitable equivalent for many Deaf people.

Key actions covered include what interpreters do and how to book one, what your responsibilities are when booking sign language interpreters, and common things that can affect communicating well with Deaf people. Government agencies need to ensure services and information provided to the public are accessible to Deaf people. This responsibility is stated in the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006, which has principles to guide government agencies in their interaction with deaf people (section 9). It is also stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (article 21).

Effective communication with Deaf people: a guide to working with New Zealand Sign Language interpreters

Download documents

Guide - Word version [DOC, 373 KB]

Sample interpreter booking form - Word version [RTF, 60 KB]

Table of Contents

Part 1: Ensuring effective communication with Deaf people

When do I need to book a sign language interpreter?

When do I need to ensure access to services? 

When do I need to ensure access to public events? 

Some differences in Deaf people using interpreters 

Māori Deaf people

Deaf users of foreign sign language

Deaf people who have minimal language competence 

Deafblind people 

Part 2: The sign language interpreter 

How do I know if a sign language interpreter is professionally competent? 

Part 3: Booking and paying for interpreters

How do I book an interpreter?

Finding a sign language interpreter 

When do I need to book more than one sign language interpreter? 

What should I do if other agencies or professionals are involved in the booking? 

What if no sign language interpreter is available? 

Who pays for sign language interpreter services? 

Part 4: Working effectively with sign language interpreters 

One-to-one or small group meeting 

Larger meetings with three or more people 

Presentation, conference, or public event 

Radio, television, or other recorded event

Telephone interpreting 

Working with deaf staff members 

Part 5: Resources and further information 

What is New Zealand Sign Language? 

Sign Language Interpreters Association of New Zealand (SLIANZ) 

Other communication professionals 

Department policy on sign language interpreting 

Contact addresses 

New Zealand Sign Language Act - Principles to guide government departments 

SLIANZ Occupational Safety and Health Standard Practice paper 

About this guide - acknowledgements



Tell us what you think

Page last updated: