Asia-Pacific Mar 12, 2012
NEW ZEALAND: A lobby group for deaf people is welcoming a decision which will see Parliament fund a note-taker to transcribe proceedings for MP Mojo Mathers, who is deaf.
The decision comes after a long running battle for Ms Mathers but she says she is finally being a treated as an equal.
Mojo Mathers, of the Green Party, last year became the first MP, who is deaf, elected to Parliament, and although she can lip read she also requires an electronic note-taking service to fully participate in the house.
Ms Mathers was told she had been told to fund the service out of her own MP’s support budget, but the speaker has finally agreed it should be paid for by Parliament.
“It’s a really positive outcome because it doesn’t disadvantage me personally, [and] it doesn’t disadvantage the party for standing a disabled or deaf people,” says Ms Mathers.
Ms Mathers uses the note-taking service for select committees, question time and house duties –at a cost of $30,000 a year.
“It’s an important principle that participation in the House is the responsibility of the House and should be funded by the House, and that’s what we’ve got,” she says.
And Rachel Noble from Deaf Aotearoa says the decision is an important step forward for everyone who is deaf.
“We hope that this resolution at the highest level in New Zealand will help to advance our situation for the rest of the deaf,” says Ms Noble.
“I didn’t expect it would take so long to reach this point but I’m very glad that we’ve got there,” says Ms Mathers.
And the speaker may go further as Lockwood Smith has indicated he will look at captioning parliament TV, which Ms Mathers says will make Parliament more accessible to the 700,000 New Zealanders with hearing disabilities.