TVNZ invites deaf viewers to watch final Leaders Debate in sign language

With this week marking both the International Week of the Deaf as well as the home stretch of the election, TVNZ will be giving New Zealand’s deaf community access to both a signed version and live captioning of the final 1 News debate between Bill English and Jacinda Ardern.

It’s the first time both captioning and sign language viewing options will be presented and to do it, TVNZ has partnered with Deaf Aotearoa. The New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreted version of tonight’s televised Vote 17 Final Leaders Debate will be made available on TVNZ.co.nz for viewers to stream OnDemand on Friday morning.

Hard-of-hearing and deaf viewers already have access to live captioning for all four of 1 News’ Election debates, however, the fast pace and quick-fire nature of political debates presents a big challenge for live interpreting. Deaf Aotearoa chief executive Lachlan Keating says NZSL is an official language of New Zealand and this initiative will provide access to political debates in deaf people’s first or preferred language.

He adds the day and a half turnaround will give it time to produce an accurate and high-quality interpretation.

Three NZSL interpreters will interpret the debate—one each for Bill English, Jacinda Ardern and moderator Mike Hosking. This will be inserted as a ‘picture-in-picture’ on screen.

TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick says it’s pleased to play an active role by offering more viewing options for the big debate to its hard-of-hearing and deaf viewers.

“It will be the first time we’re presenting both captioning and sign language viewing options, and it would not have been possible without the valuable support from our accessibility partners Able and Deaf Aotearoa.”

Captions are produced by Able for broadcast on TVNZ channels, giving access to media for those who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, learning English, learning to read or having trouble hearing the television.

Able chief executive Wendy Youens says 17 percent of New Zealanders use captions on a regular basis and as it’s working to make media accessible across New Zealand, it’s excited to be partnering with TVNZ to provide captioning for the election coverage.

Able is funded by NZ On Air to provide captioning for broadcast television.

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