Calls from the deaf community to have a sign language interpreter during election debates have been answered, with an interpreter to be included in the last leaders' debate.
TVNZ this afternoon said its final leaders debate between Prime Minister Bill English and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday will feature an NZ Sign Language interpreter.
The announcement comes after members of the deaf community protested outside the state-owned broadcaster just over a week ago. A petition with about 2000 signatures was also delivered.
A spokeswoman told the group, at the time, that it could not include a signed version for "logistical reasons''.
TVNZ chief Kevin Kenrick today said: "It will be the first time we're presenting both captioning and sign language viewing options and it would not have been possible without support from our accessibility partners ABLE and Deaf Aotearoa."
The last leaders' debate will screen on Wednesday at 7pm.
The NZ Sign Language version will be made available two days later, on Friday morning, via the OnDemand stream.
The delay would allow for a day-and-a-half turn around and high quality interpretation, Deaf Aotearoa chief Lachlan Keating said.
"The fast pace and quick fire nature of political debates presents a big challenge for live interpreting,'' he said.
There would be three NZ Sign Language interpreters involved - one interpreting for English, one for Ardern and one for debate moderator Mike Hosking.
Kenrick acknowledged International Week of the Deaf - which starts today - and how pleased TVNZ was to be playing a role in offering more viewing options for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.
The Human Rights Commission has also praised the announcement, with disabilities rights commissioner Paula Tesoriero calling the move a "significant outcome''.
"The ability for deaf New Zealanders to participate in the democratic process will be strengthened by this development.
"This is a step towards including more NZ Sign Language in television.''