Meet the man who signs alongside Jacinda Ardern for NZ's deaf community

Source: 1News

With regular sign language interpreters on New Zealand televisions, people from the country's deaf community have had more access to the political sphere, education, citizenship, health care and more.

To mark the start of New Zealand Sign Language Week, interpreter Alan Wendt, who often signs alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, joined TVNZ1's Breakfast today to talk through the impact of having an interpreter broadcast.

"A number of deaf people have told me, and regularly tell interpreters, that the service we provide gives them access to citizenship, to the birth rights that everyone else has access to, access to an education, access to a health service, access to the political sphere."

He recalls a young deaf mum who had never had access to politics in New Zealand, but had since become interested in the subject now that she is able to understand what is being discussed.

"Because the Prime Minister has chosen to provide an interpreter for her post-cabinet briefings, this young woman now has access to a whole lot of discourse that was never really accessible to her before and now she has a deeper interest in politics."

Access has been an issue for citizenship, as well as people's realisation of rights and responsibilities and belonging, Mr Wendt said.

He said interpreters in New Zealand are "well-trained" and learn to "be that conduit for communication".

As an interpreter for the Prime Minister - often working on emotional or challenging topics including the Christchurch terrorist attack - Mr Wendt said it was important to control his own beliefs and emotions when carrying out the job.

Well-versed in communication, Mr Wendt studied German and linguistics before sign language.