International research suggests the Deaf community has poorer health outcomes compared to the general population. We know effective communication in healthcare settings contributes to good patient outcomes and this requires recognition of linguistic and cultural differences. For the Deaf community, this means adequate use of NZSL interpreters.

Can I have a NZSL interpreter?

Yes, qualified NZSL interpreters should be used in all ‘high consequence’ circumstances, for example health consultations, including assessment, treatment and discussions around medication. Interpreters are available 24/7.

  1. Ask the Deaf person if they want a NZSL interpreter.
  2. If yes, do they have a preferred interpreter?

Who pays?

iSign pays for the interpreter for appointments with independent midwives, general practitioners, Plunket, ultrasound appointments and antenatal classes.

To contact iSign:

Te Whatu Ora pays for appointments based at the hospital (for example delivery, woman’s health etc.).

Who’s responsible for booking the interpreter?

The organisation is responsible for booking the interpreter, rather than the Deaf person.

If there are any problems getting an interpreter, the Deaf person can contact iSign themselves. There are cards available at the hospital reception with a QR code linking people to book an interpreter online.

What should I do if no NZSL interpreters are available?

Discuss with the Deaf person the best way to communicate, some options include:

  • Using the Video Relay Interpreting service (available between 8am-8pm, Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm Saturday and 12pm-5pm Sunday). The service is also available during these hours on public holidays.
  • Postpone the appointment until you can get an interpreter
  • Use note writing, online videos, gesture, lip reading, family/friend to interpret (NB: these options are risky and should be considered as a last resort).

What is the Video Interpreting Service (VIS)?

  • VIS uses a qualified NZSL interpreter via skype through the screen names NZVIS01 - NZVIS07
  • A hearing person can also call a deaf person who uses skype via VIS by calling 0800 4877 877.
  • VIS should usually be a backup option
  • ED at Wellington Regional Hospital, Hutt Valley Hospital and Kenepuru Community Hospital have iPads set up ready to use VIS
  • For more information, visit

Contact us

If you have any questions, you can call or text the disability team (during working hours):

Last updated 15 December 2023.