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Tania Ali (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) - Business Graduate

In Porirua, Deaf tauira Tania Ali (Ngāti Tūwharetoa), recently walked the graduation stage to receive her Certificate in Small Business and Project Management. With New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) her first language, this feat was made possible with the support provided throughout her study at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

Tania was born Deaf during the 1960s Rubella epidemic and manages day-to-day by lip-reading – a skill she learned as a child when sign language was discouraged. For her studies at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, interpreters were provided for all her learning sessions.

The NZSL kaiako says the support she received went beyond expectations and helped her understand programme content and communicate effectively with her peers.

“In previous study, time allocated for interpreters was limited and when it ran out, I was back communicating by pen and paper. At Te Wānanga o Aotearoa there was always someone to help me communicate with non-NZSL users like the kaiako and my classmates. I never felt uncomfortable or like an invisible minority. Instead, every attempt was made to get things ready and accessible for me,” says Tania.

As soon as the class was confirmed for 2023, her Student Support Advisor worked with Disabilities Support Subject Matter Expert Debra Tanfield to create a plan that would ensure Tania’s learning needs were met.

“Having the support plan in place before the start of class was helpful. The advisors knew what their roles were, and they were very organised,” says Tania.

Interpreters rotate out regularly to avoid fatigue from real-time interpreting, so a team of interpreters was needed. Tania says the experienced SME was aware of this and had acquired multiple interpreters to make sure she was never left without one.

“It really helped to have someone very experienced in the disabilities space. Debra was amazing, easy to communicate with, and knew the network of interpreters to get help from,” says Tania.

Inspired by her love for travel, Tania studied business to fulfill her dream of starting an accessible tourism company providing disability-friendly tour packages. She says the Level 4 business programme was the perfect choice for its content and blended delivery method of online and face-to-face workshops.

“The kaiako was very knowledgeable and helpful. It was his first time working with interpreters in the class, so it was a good learning experience for everyone. Our kaiako adapted really well and my classmates were lovely – always willing to help and very patient with all my questions,” laughs Tania.

Literacy at the level of a hearing person posed a challenge for Tania. Sometimes it was difficult to understand the aromatawai (assignments) and express her ideas in writing. With the support provided, Tania was able to excel in her studies and prepare a business plan by the end of the programme.

Tania is excited about launching her company ‘Aroha Hands Accessible Tourism’ in 2024. As a passionate advocate of accessibility improvement in the community, she thinks anyone who has a disability should be given the opportunity to reach their learning goals. She encourages them to give Te Wānanga o Aotearoa a call to discuss the support services available to them.

“I liked the fact that Te Wānanga o Aotearoa had a te ao Māori approach to everything. I knew it was imbedded in the kaupapa, but I really did see it in action with all the aroha and āwhina I received. I will be spreading the word that this is a great place to study as they make things really accessible,” says Tania.

Find out more about our Business programmes.

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Published On: 06 May 2024

Article By: Salina Ghazally

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