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Deaf Kiwis forced to wait for interpreters

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/03/2017
Man running down corridor in hospital © Thinkstock Hospital

Deaf people are at serious risk in medical emergencies because of a lack of access to sign language interpreters, the Green Party say.

Deaf Action New Zealand has reported that just eight out of the nation's 20 district health boards provide 24-hour access to interpreters.

The report was commissioned after Whangarei man Kim Robinson was forced to wait 64 hours for an interpreter last year.

"Medical emergencies are already scary enough - imagine how terrifying it is if you can't understand what is happening or can't communicate what's wrong," Green Party disability spokeswoman Mojo Mathers said.

The report also found there was an over-reliance on non-qualified interpreters, while no DHB offers video remote interpreting.

The report comes little more than a week after Mr Robinson highlighted concerns about the safety of deaf people in public buildings where only audible smoke alarms are installed.

His petition calling for visual smoke alarms to become mandatory in all public buildings is being considered by parliament's government administration select committee.

Auckland University student Dean Buckley spoke in support of the move, saying he was left along in a campus building during a fire drill last year.

He only became aware the entire building had been evacuated when he saw an angry fire warden walking toward him.

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