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Kia ora

Capital and Coast, Hutt Valley, and Wairarapa Hospitals 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 so we can add it to this page.

Useful Videos

Thanks to the NZSL Board we have made two videos for hospital staff and the deaf community. These videos are about coming to hospital for the deaf community and about communicating with deaf people for staff. 

For the deaf community: Coming to the hospital?


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


Questions and Answers

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.

New Zealand Video Interpreting Services (NZVIS), a remote interpreting service done via Skype, Zoom or MS Teams could be an option if you can’t find an NZSL interpreter. NZVIS are open at the following times: Monday – Friday 8am to 8pm; Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday 12pm to 5pm.

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.

You are welcome to book an interpreter yourself with iSign – you will need to provide information about your hospital appointment for iSign to charge, please tell your hospital staff.

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.

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 our Disablity Advisors Robyn Armour and Jo Klitscher on 027 243 0680 or call the switchboard and ask for ext 8590 (Monday, Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

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

Access for deaf and hard of hearing woman and whanau to maternity services if pregnant or 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 (if between 8am - 8pm, Mon-Fri)
  • 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, Kenepuru Community Hospital and HVDHB have iPads set up ready to use VIS
  • For more information, check out

General health information, resources and videos for deaf people uses NZSL:

The Deaf Health Charity Signhealth:

There is also health information available online in British Sign Language (BSL) that may be accessible to some people.


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.


Learn NZSL

Contact us

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

  •  contact our Disablity Advisors Robyn Armour and Jo Klitscher on 027 243 0680 or call the switchboard and ask for ext 8590 (Monday, Tuesdays and Wednesdays).