Byron Gibbons

Byron Gibbons

New Zealand Sign Language Interpreter, Wellington
Bachelor of Arts in New Zealand Sign Language – English Interpreting

As a Child of a Deaf Adult (CODA), New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf culture are valuable parts of his identity, says Byron Gibbons who completed a Bachelor of Arts in New Zealand Sign Language – English Interpreting.

“Living with a Deaf mother, as well as having a Deaf uncle and grandparents, and an aunt who is an NZSL interpreter have definitely been guiding influences in the decision to becoming an interpreter. After nearly ten years of working as a barista I decided I wanted to pursue a new career that had a more rewarding scope for giving back to society. I actually went through this degree alongside my cousin, so it definitely is a bit of a family thing!”

He is passionate about creating a more equal and fair society for Deaf New Zealanders.

“As a CODA, I already had some understanding of the day-to-day injustices that Deaf individuals have to contend with. However, one lecture in 2020 had a particularly powerful impact on me. It was a presentation on the experience of Deaf people in New Zealand’s criminal justice system. Never before had the extent of the lack of equality for Deaf people been made so clear to me. It absolutely inspired me to become a part of achieving a better, fairer and more equal life experience for Deaf people in New Zealand.”

A rewarding experience
We need more interpreters to provide equality and access to education and services for all Deaf New Zealanders, says Bryon.

“A special thing about interpreting is that you could work in the widest variety of potential settings – from compulsory education, working with Deaf children, to platform interpreting in Parliament. The areas of work for an interpreter are never static, which is awesome. The training is not easy though! If you choose this programme, you should expect a very challenging but very rewarding experience.”

The Deaf staff members are the greatest resource in the degree, Byron says.

“The majority of hearing people have little to no exposure to the rich culture and language of the Deaf world and the New Zealand Sign Language using community. The opportunity to learn New Zealand Sign Language, and find out more about Deaf history and cultural values from such kind, experienced and eminent Deaf role models, has hands-down been the most valuable and enjoyable part of my studies.”

Advice for other students
Byron has some great advice for other students interested in studying New Zealand Sign Language.

“One of the essential things you’ll learn in this programme is how language and culture are intrinsically linked. How we think and our approach to human interaction is powerfully informed by how we communicate.

“For this reason, my advice to other students would be to find out how you can teach yourself about Aotearoa New Zealand’s Deaf community and learn some basic New Zealand Sign Language, before starting the degree. You could do this through night classes, visiting your local Deaf Club and keeping up to date with Deaf current affairs. The more you can understand about Deaf culture, the greater your command of the language, the more rewarding your experience in this programme will be.”

Since completing his studies in 2021, he now enjoys being able to make a difference to the Deaf community through his work as a New Zealand Sign Language interpreter.

“I’m enjoying working as an NZSL interpreter. I’ve learnt that it can be a job that offers great work-life balance, freedom to choose the work you want to do, and a real sense of contributing to society positively and meaningfully. The main delight I’ve found in the job so far is the diversity of settings in which I get to work. I have had opportunities to interpret in education, government and health settings. The learning curve on the job is steep but exciting, and I look forward to the personal and professional growth that is to come in my new career.”