Mojo Mathers, New Zealand's first Deaf MP, is being forced to use her own personnel allowance to pay for the live closed captioning of Question Time debates .
Not only is this a prerequisite for her participation in the debate - an essential part of her job - but live closed captioning of Question Time debates in Parliament would also benefit thousands of hearing impaired New Zealanders who are kept from participating in democracy in this important way.
The New Zealand Parliament has an obligation to make debates accessible to the people it represents and the representatives who serve them. This is one of the oldest traditions of the Westminster system. It is ridiculous that Question Time is only available live to people who can comprehend spoken English, one of New Zealand's three official languages.
There are 9,000 people in New Zealand who are culturally Deaf and use New Zealand Sign Language as a primary language . New Zealand Sign Language is New Zealand's third official language, Maori being second. There are thousands more people who have hearing impairments that prohibit them from understanding Question Time as it happens. The costs of a live captioner should therefore be borne by Parliamentary Services in the interests of public accessibility.
Lockwood Smith, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, says he's unable to authorise staffing hours for the captioning service, although the technology has been provided . Parliamentary Services should consider the fact that closed captioning service for Question Time would benefit thousands of New Zealanders. This is a simple issue of access and rights.
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