Deaf Kiwi mother explains how learning sign language changed her life for the better

Source: 1News

For Amber Shaw learning New Zealand sign language was a life-changing experience.

Growing up as a young deaf woman in Northland, she faced a lack of resources for the deaf and found it hard to fit in.

Struggling, she moved to Auckland and attended boarding school. There, Amber met numerous other deaf people, all users of New Zealand Sign Language.

The experience was transformative for Amber, with this new language enabling her to connect to a culture she never knew existed.

AUT deaf studies lecturer Rachel Coppage says that for many deaf people, not having access to New Zealand Sign Language can be very disabling.

Being unable to either express themselves, or connect with a common culture, can lead to many problems later in life.

There are deaf people who, unable to access New Zealand Sign Language, can find it hard to parse who they are in relation to their own deafness, leading to what Rachel describes as a "identity crisis" later in life.

Amber’s connection to New Zealand Sign Language enabled her to run her own business in Wellington, teaching New Zealand Sign Language to local businesses and even publishing a book of signs.

Amber now works as a facilitator for Deaf Aotearoa, having moved from Wellington back to Auckland.

She says that she made the move for her two sons, with more opportunities and resources being available in a large city. She hopes that with these resources, and advocacy on her part, her sons won’t have to face the same difficulties that she did.

Both she and Rachel hope that, in the future, New Zealand Sign Language can be used to create a more inclusive society, with New Zealand Sign Language being a natural part of everyday life in New Zealand.

Both would like to see more promotion of the language and with less of the burden of communication placed on the deaf community. 

Kieran Bennett