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Online protest over 'deaf MP' decision

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Online protest over 'deaf MP' decision

A 22 year old Wellington student has upped the pressure on Speaker Lockwood Smith by triggering an online protest against his decision not to support Parliamentary Services personnel funding for deaf Greens MP Mojo Mathers.

In a new twist to the social media storm that has broken out over the issue, the Speaker has been inundated with more than 1000 emails from people signing a Change.org petition protesting his refusal to cough up the required funding.

VUW media design student Merrin Macleod started the petition late last week when she heard news reports that Dr Smith was refusing to have Parliamentary Services pay for the electronic notetaker that would allow Ms Mathers to participate in Parliamentary debates.

"It just seemed so bizarre that the woman who had made history by becoming the first profoundly deaf MP was being forced to use her own staffing hours to participate in Parliamentary proceedings in the same way every other MP can," said Merrin.

"It was such a clear case of discrimination, I felt I had to do something about it."

Merrin decided to start a petition on Change.org, recently described by The New York Times as "the go-to site for web uprisings". The petition calls on the Speaker and New Zealand Government to pay for live closed captioning of Parliamentary proceedings. Merrin said not only would this provide a solution for Ms Mathers, but it also would benefit the thousands of New Zealanders who are deaf or hearing impaired.

Merrin shared the petition via Facebook and Twitter and emailed a number of disability groups seeking their support. By 2pm Monday, support for the petition had grown to more than 1000.

Comments posted on the petition site indicated the depth of feeling about the issue.

"It is a very simple human rights issue of equity of participation," wrote one supporter.

"It is critical that democratic representation is available to all New Zealand citizens. People with disabilities have been too long marginalised from representation at this level," wrote another.

Merrin said she was also disappointed the Minister for Disability Issues, Tariana Turia, had refused to speak out on what was an important issue for the disability sector.

For live signature updates on Merrin's petition:

http://www.change.org/petitions/speaker-of-the-house-of-representatives-pay-for-live-closed-captioning-of-question-time-debates-in-the-parliament

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