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Kia ora, Capital and Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa DHBs want to improve access for the deaf community to health services.This page has information that’s useful to know when going to hospital. If you want more information that’s not here, please let us know and we will add this information to this page.

Also, the hospital wants your feedback whether it's positive or negative. You can contact us by text or email, or we can arrange to meet face to face. Our contact details are at the bottom of this page.

Videos about coming to hospital for the deaf community and about communicating with deaf people for staff

Thanks to the NZSL Board we have made two videos for hospital staff and the deaf community. Each of these are available with and without captions.

For the deaf community: Coming to the hospital? Some useful information



For DHB staff: Communicating with people from the Deaf community: for better health outcomes



Booking an NZSL interpreter

Can I request a NZSL interpreter at my appointment?

Yes, you are entitled to a NZSL interpreter at any appointments you have.

It can be difficult to find interpreters, especially at short notice.

Video Relay interpreting (VRI) could be an option if you can’t find an NZSL interpreter. Remember: VRI is available 8am-8pm.

You are also entitled to a NZSL interpreter if you are not the patient, but your partner, child or whanau is the patient and you need to know what’s going on.

Who is responsible for booking the interpreter?

Hospital staff are responsible for booking NZSL interpreters and should be booked by the department where the appointment is taking place, e.g, cardiology. The booking office does not usually book interpreters.

What if the hospital worker doesn’t know how to book a NZSL interpreter?

You can suggest they:

Can I get a NZSL interpreter after-hours in an emergency?

Yes, iSign is available to book interpreters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However NZSL interpreters are not always available.

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) is available from 8am to 8pm. See:

Can I request a particular interpreter?

Yes, let the staff member making the booking know which interpreter you want. If the interpreter you want is not free, you need to decide to go ahead with the appointment or postpone to another time.

What should I do if no NZSL Interpreters are available?

You need to decide whether to:

  • use VRI (if between 8am - 8pm)
  • postpone the appointment until you can get an interpreter
  • use note writing, online videos, gesture, lip reading, family/friend to interpret (there are risks with using these options)
  • contact the disability team: phone 04 806-2434, email, text only 0278392733

Who can I contact if I feel the hospital worker doesn’t understand deaf culture?

  • Contact the Disability team on: 0278392733 (text only)
  • Direct the hospital worker to Deaf Aotearoa

Flow chart outlining the process for booking an interpreter

Download a copy of this flow chart here. (PDF)

Access for deaf and hard of hearing woman and whanau to maternity services

Pregnant, hapu

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 24/7.E.g., health consultations, including assessment, treatment and discussions around medication.

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

Who pays?

For appointments with my independent midwife, GP, Plunket, ultrasound appointments, antenatal classes:

iSign pays for the interpreter, contact iSign at:

For appointments based at the hospital (delivery, woman’s health etc.)

  • The DHB pays.

Who’s responsible for booking the interpreter?

The organisation (not the Deaf person) is responsible for booking the interpreter.However, if there are any problems getting an interpreter the Deaf person can text iSign on 3359.

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)
  • Check out these videos.

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 and Kenepuru Community Hospital have iPads set up ready to use VIS
  • For more information, check out

Contact us

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

Research about ‘Deaf communities access to health services' published in the NZ Medical Journal (NZSL translation)

NZSL is the only language of many deaf people and the first and preferred language of others. It is also the basis for deaf culture. The New Zealand Medical Journal recently published an article on the experiences of deaf people with our health services.

Read the article here. (If you don't have a subscription, click the 'Abstract' tab to read a free summary.

Following are a series of videos that translate the research in NZSL.











Where to learn NZSL

There is a list of NZSL classes available at

Alternatively, you can learn NZSL online at

Contact us

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

Last updated 6 May 2021.