Meet The Team
FOUNDER, DIRECTOR AND NZSL TUTOR
I was born hearing and at the age of five I contracted bacterial meningitis. As a result, I became profoundly Deaf. This, of course, was very hard for my parents and they wanted to give me the best support they could.. I was fitted with hearing aids and learnt how to lipread. I was introduced to sign language at age ten and was mainstreamed in Christchurch with the invaluable support of a Teacher of the Deaf beside me through my schooling years. I am now married with two children and my entire family is hearing.
In 2013 I decided to enroll in a New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) course with a friend of mine who thought it would be interesting and fun to do. It certainly was! I was reconnected to a piece of me! I went on to complete NZSL Level 3.
I am a member of the New Zealand Sign Language Teachers Association (NZSLTA) and have completed the Certificate in Deaf Studies at Victoria University in Wellington. I work all over Christchurch and travel throughout Canterbury teaching our introductory course of NZSL & Deaf Culture to beginners or anyone who wants to refresh their skills.
I work at the University and I am also the Vice President of the Deaf Society of Canterbury Inc. I am involved in the Deaf community to support and assist the club members, staff and Board.
I have been aware of the communication barrier from a young age and have experienced isolation in some areas such as social inclusion, important instructions and general everyday conversations. I received speech therapy when I was younger. This has allowed me to use my voice to support those in the Deaf community today.
As I have a good understanding of the gap between the Deaf and hearing communities, my goal is to help bridge that gap to allow Deaf and hearing to communicate effectively with basic, everyday signs.
It is so important to learn NZSL. I know that our goal at Sign Equity will have a big impact and will benefit so many people.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
I fully support Julie in this new venture. I came on board with Sign Equity to help with the development of our programme which is tailored to meet the needs of each individual, small group and business.
Being married, for many years to someone who is profoundly Deaf, I know first hand the difficulties that hearing people have with communicating with some Deaf people. Hearing people take a lot for granted when it comes to communication. I have witnessed people being told that a person can't hear, only to watch them carry on the way they were. Or worse still, over pronounce their words. This makes it even harder for a Deaf person to understand and may inadvertently make them feel inferior. Hearing people only do this because they don't know any different. They just need a little help to understand.
I believe being able to communicate is one of the most basic human rights. NZSL, being an official language of New Zealand, is not used extensively enough.
I believe the basic course that we have put together, with the help and experience from people in the Deaf community, makes the basics of NZSL and Deaf Culture, quite easy to learn. We have also developed an individual online dictionary, with illustrations and videos of signs taught in each programme. This is to assist our clients in learning in their own time, and for them to use, if they need it, while they are out and about. It is mobile friendly which allows them to use it from any mobile device.
What do I bring to this social enterprise? My journey in information technology started in the mid 90's and business management in the early 2000's. My role is to manage the administration, accounts, tech support and website for Sign Equity Ltd.
I don't want to work just for the sake of making money. I also feel I need to make an impact with what I do. I feel this enterprise can really boost, both the hearing and Deaf communities. I hope that we, as a team, can assist in bridging the gap between the two.
Josje Lelijveld MNZM
NZSL / DEAF CULTURE MENTOR
Born Deaf and raised in the Netherlands, I am fluent in four languages; New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), English, Dutch and Dutch Sign Language.
For 30 years I have worked for the Deaf Community at large with various roles in numerous work settings in NZ:
both educational and residential at Deaf Education Centre
service coordinator at Deaf Aotearoa
cultural mediator at Christchurch Polytechnic
employment consultant at Workbridge
outreach worker for NZ Relay
currently teaching NZSL and Deaf Awareness at Canterbury University for Resource Teachers of the Deaf (RTD) students
currently teaching NZSL at Otago University
Being Deaf doesn’t hold me back. I have gained considerable experience and established significant connections across multiple organisations. I consider myself to be a strong advocate for NZSL and have passionately taught NZSL in between my jobs for over 20 years. I have amassed significant wisdom and expertise.
My current projects and involvements are:
Deputy Chair of the NZSL Board under MSD
Developing Level 2 Teach Sign
Committee of NZSL Teachers Association
Committee member of Otago Deaf Society
Personally, I am straightforward, easy to relate to, direct and have a great sense of humour! My vibrant energy, strong leadership and being a role model for the Deaf has allowed me to give an exceptional contribution to the Deaf community.
I have been happily married for many years to a hearing man (who can sign) and have three wonderful adult daughters, one who has recently qualified as an NZSL interpreter. In 2018 I won the NZSL Champion Award.
I believe Julie’s experiences fit exceptionally well into both hearing and Deaf communities. She is a perfect link between the two. Sign Equity Ltd is a basic and very effective way of connecting both the Deaf and hearing communities in a friendly and relaxed manner. The programme is well developed and resourceful.
I felt privileged to be asked to be the NZSL & Deaf Culture Mentor for the team at Sign Equity Ltd.
NZSL TUTOR SUPPORT
I was born severely deaf and raised in Auckland. I grew up in the hearing world and my family is hearing. I received speech therapy at a young age and was given hearing aids. Then aged 21, I became completely (profoundly) Deaf overnight.
I lost the hearing I had (moderate to severe hearing loss) and was fitted with a cochlear implant. I joined the Deaf Community in my early twenties. I was shocked to see the Deaf Community using NZSL and had to learn to sign and understand their culture. I am now fluent in NZSL.
I went to Deaf Studies at Victoria University of Wellington in 2001 and graduated in 2002 as an NZSL tutor. I have taught NZSL classes for a number of years. I know both the Deaf and hearing communities well.
I fully support Julie to help her vision of 'Bridging the Gap' between both communities. I agree that Deaf and hearing need to communicate more easily with everyday signs.
I am proud to be part of the Sign Equity team.
Sign Equity Ltd is an initiative that is long overdue to promote and support our most recent official language.
Even though I am hearing, I began learning New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) in 2013 and went through to complete Level 3. This important skill has enhanced my work in the community with all kinds of people.
Throughout my life, I have always enjoyed the challenge of learning new languages as I value good communication and understanding of cultural differences.
The opportunity that Sign Equity represents enables me to be an advocate and enhance NZSL in the community . I have worked alongside Julie in a supportive role.
I'm excited about the chance that this social enterprise will make in the community.