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Mr Fix It signs on to help the deaf community deal with the Tasman fires

NZ Sign Language Interpreter Paul Palmer at a media standup at the Tasman District Council offices.

Paul Palmer might be known as the “sign language guy” these days but that’s not his usual title.   “I have a regular job fixing computers.”

The Nelson man has become a common face – and hands – in the coverage of the fires plaguing the area, as he interprets for the deaf community. 

More used to interpreting for the occasional doctor’s appointment, it was the first time Palmer had been called in to work for a major emergency.

Palmer never had to learn to sign, it was talking he needed encouragement with. 

“My parents were born profoundly deaf, sign language is my first language. 

“They were encouraged to put the TV on when I was little so I could hear the talking.”

Having an interpreter was vitally important for the deaf community, he said.

“A lot of them feel they are respected and viewed as equals by having someone provided.”

Facing down the news cameras in his new role had brought some unexpected results. 

“I was walking through KMart the other day and a little girl said ‘oh my God it’s the sign language  guy.’ It’s quite cool.”