Hundreds of students and staff pass through the foyer of the WT building on the City Campus every day and now Safety & Security Officer PK Takaia can communicate with them all thanks to his New Zealand Sign Language classes.
“I decided to do the class because in my role I’m always talking to people and the [New Zealand Sign Language] department was the only department where I wasn’t able to communicate with them when I saw them around the building.
“When we had Deaf students or visitors come to WT I wasn’t able to communicate with them either and it was embarrassing so I thought I’d better sort myself out and doing something about it.”
He signed up for the sign language paper NZSL511 and has been attending the weekly classes since February.
One of the first opportunities PK had to put his new found signing skills to work was during the building’s latest fire evacuation drill.
“Normally when the drill is all over I let the staff know they can go back into the building first. This time I started that process by signing for the NZSL staff to come forward and letting them go back in. The response was great.”
PK says his new skills mean he’s also better equipped to help visitors to the building and has already been able to help new Deaf students looking for classes.
“It’s a great way to make people feel more included and more welcome. I’m one of the first people they see and it’s great to be able to say ‘hi’ and have a simple conversation.”
PK has really enjoyed the Monday afternoon classes and says it has been great to see the mixture of staff and the number of them who are interested in learning New Zealand Sign Language. He is planning to sign up for the next sign language paper next semester.
NZSL lecturer Susie Ovens says it has been great to see the number of staff from across the different disciplines and campuses who have chosen to take the paper. Staff currently taking the paper are from security, brand and communications, paramedicine, maths, health and the diversity office.
“We have Deaf students at all of our campuses and it is really good that more of our staff will be able to communicate with them.”
Ovens says the feedback from staff has been really positive.
“NZSL is really fun to learn. Signing is so different from other languages, you will learn to use your hands and your eyes, your whole face, to communicate.”
As well as being fun to learn, Ovens says NZSL is an official language of New Zealand and a terrific addition to anyone’s CV.
Sign of the times: NZSL
New Zealand Sign Language or NZSL is an official language of New Zealand, alongside Te Reo Māori and English.
There are approximately 9000 Deaf New Zealanders and about 420,000 deaf and hearing impaired people in New Zealand.
NZSL is used daily by more than 24,000 New Zealanders, and it is the 12th most frequently used language, out of approximately 190 languages currently used in New Zealand.