There are approximately 4,600 Deaf people in New Zealand who use New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) (Census 2018, Stats NZ) and roughly 23,000 people in total who use NZSL, including parents who do so to communicate with their Deaf child.

Monday 8 – Sunday 14 May

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) became an official language of Aotearoa in 2006 and the following year, the first NZSL Week took place. Organised by Deaf Aotearoa, the week provides the opportunity for the country’s Deaf community to celebrate their language and culture. It’s aimed at breaking down barriers, fears and misconceptions.

The Office for Disability Issues states NZSL has developed naturally, over time, through being used by the Deaf community in New Zealand – it’s not an artificially created communication system. It has its own grammatical structure and is solely visual.

There are a range of activities around the country related to New Zealand Sign Language Week in May, so keep an eye on the official website

But there are also a number of resources available online, year round, for people who want to start learning now.

Deaf Aotearoa points people to a range of resources, including for those ready to teach sign language.

The resources page on New Zealand Sign Language Week's website includes a range of booklets to download, with topics ranging from work to emergencies, families through to Māori concepts.

LearnNZSL is a free online dictionary where you can type in a word – for example engineering – and you’ll get a video clip of someone signing the word, along with its te reo Māori translation.

The Office for Disability Issues also has resources related to the workplace, with guidance for business owners and employers on how to ensure people with disabilities can fully participate in society.