Te Pūkenga NMIT shrinking barriers to learning

Te Pūkenga NMIT shrinking barriers to learning

Rachel Summers and signer Cathy Gutschlag are both in their second year of a Bachelor of Social Work.
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Cathy Gutschlag and Rachel Summers sign 'I love you'

“I am absolutely loving it here,” says ākonga Rachel Summers. “I have had a lot of really good new experiences together with my class.”

Rachel is deaf and was encouraged to enrol in the programme by good friend and signer Cathy Gutschlag, so that she could become a qualified social worker in Nelson for the deaf community.

They are both tutors at Waimea College for New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and Rachel is the secretary for Nelson Deaf Community Incorporated.

“I am lucky to have some of my tutors learning NZSL with me at Te Pūkenga NMIT, a full-time interpreter in the class, a note taker and a good support person from library learning services once a week as well,” says Rachel.

Rachel says not many tertiary education providers offer the level of funding and support that Te Pūkenga NMIT does and that without it, she would not have been able to study.

“The workbridge funding I receive is very limited — I am grateful to be here,” she says.

Cathy learned how to sign because she has deaf family. She strongly believes more hearing people need to be able to sign and have some deaf awareness of both the language and the culture.

“I actually think learning the basics of NZSL is kind of easy,” she says. “It’s when you’re trying to navigate the complexities of communication is where it gets difficult.”

Both Cathy and Rachel think that although having a universal sign language would be beneficial, individual cultures would be lost.

“NZSL is very beautiful and unique,” Cathy says. “Some Māori concepts have been developed by tangata turi [Māori deaf community]. If the language became universal, then we would be missing out on a beautiful language.”

Sign Language Awareness Week begins May 8 and Te Pūkenga NMIT is celebrating by hosting several taster lessons, a competition and a lunch for the deaf community. More information can be found at Nelson Campus Library or on our Facebook page @NMITNZ.

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