Westpac has become New Zealand’s first bank to offer free in-branch sign language interpreters for Deaf customers.
Approximately 4,500 Deaf Kiwis use New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) as their first or preferred form of communication and more than 20,000 people in total use NZSL – including parents and family members who use it with their deaf family member.
Because NZSL is a critical form of communication and is New Zealand’s third official language, Westpac NZ is now offering NZSL interpreters from iSign to Deaf customers at no extra cost to the customer, all that is needed is a booking.
Botany Downs Westpac Branch Manager Arpita Chanda says this will help both customers and branch staff, making banking services more accessible and efficient.
“When there’s a lag in communication between our Deaf customers and branch staff, I can see that it can be quite frustrating for our customers,” Chanda said.
“Interpreters are now readily available - they could be available for a same day appointment in some cases or within 5 to 10 working days depending on which region in New Zealand the customer lives in.
“Customers who would like to use this service should contact their local branch and ask for an appointment with the interpreter,” she said.
iSign is a nationwide agency providing NZSL interpreting services and they are the Government’s provider.
iSign’s interpreters worked alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director Genral of Health Ashley Bloomfield during the daily COVID-19 press conferences.
“Deaf people do use online banking services, but some situations require face-to-face relationships in branch, which is where this service will be great,” said iSign GM Mark Crooke.
"Questions and queries from the Deaf customer can be responded to in the Deaf person’s preferred language, providing a respectful and effective customer relationship,” Crooke said.
Wespac’s Extra Care Programme Lead, Louisa Brock, said Westpac was excited to offer this to customers.
“It’s all about how we can remove barriers to all our customers in order to make banking equitable for everyone.
“We endeavour to provide guidance and support to customers, so they can make informed decisions. This initiative is making our support and services accessible to our Deaf customers,” she said.
Westpac NZ CFO Ian Hankins says this is a milestone for the bank.
“Our people have loved being part of making our business more accessible to all of our customers.
“I’m very proud that we now offer this important form of communication for our Deaf customers,” Hankins said.
Anyone who would like to learn NZSL can check out the various places to learn on the NZSL Week website here https://nzslweek.org.nz/learning-nzsl/ or contact AUT for information on their tertiary education training courses.
Customers who would like to book the NZSL interpreter service should contact their local Westpac branch.