Air New Zealand Takes NZSL to New Heights for Sign Language Week

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 8, 2024 19:30 PMNews
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Two hands demonstrating a sign language gesture against a black background
Two hands demonstrating a sign language gesture against a black background. Source: unsplash

Air New Zealand is taking New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) to new altitudes by incorporating it into their flights during New Zealand Sign Language Week, celebrated from May 6-12. This innovative initiative saw the crew of NZ421 from Auckland to Wellington using NZSL to communicate onboard, including signing inflight announcements and service options.

This groundbreaking flight not only marks a significant event in advocating for the deaf community but also aligns with this year's theme for NZSL Week, "an Aotearoa where anyone can sign anywhere." The airline’s Enable Network, which supports employees with disabilities, spearheaded this initiative. Air New Zealand has developed an NZSL training module with Deaf Aotearoa, now completed by about 400 employees, furthering their commitment to inclusivity.

The flight featured sign language for common items like "water" and "cookie," with illustrated cards provided to encourage passenger participation in learning NZSL. According to Ed Collett, Air New Zealand's Senior Aircraft Programmes Manager, this initiative reflects their ongoing efforts to foster an inclusive environment across their services.

Customers, including NZSL Week ambassador Jon Tai-Rakena and Deaf Aotearoa Chief Executive Lachlan Keating, highlighted the flight as a significant step towards inclusivity. Keating praised the effort, noting it as a perfect embodiment of the NZSL Week’s aspirations.

This event is not just a one-off; it is a part of a broader movement towards accessibility and inclusion within New Zealand, offering a glimpse into the potential future of air travel where barriers for the deaf community continue to be dismantled. The airline hopes that this will encourage more widespread adoption of NZSL, enhancing everyday inclusivity across the country.

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