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Digital access for Chinese New Zealanders

For many Chinese immigrants, Mandarin or Cantonese are their first and often only languages. And while we've come a long way in bridging cultural gaps, there are still challenges when it comes to digital access. 

Here are some tips to make your digital content more accessible for our Chinese Kiwi community.

Chinese dragon on a tile with the words Happy Lunar New Year, Year of the Dragon

Happy Lunar New Year!

As we welcome the Year of the Dragon on February 10th, it's a perfect time to reflect on the rich history of Chinese immigrants in New Zealand. From the gold rush era to the present day, Chinese Kiwis have been an integral part of our community, bringing their traditions, culture, and vibrancy to our shores.

Just think about it - back in those early days, navigating a new culture must have been quite the adventure! But today, as a nation, we've embraced Chinese New Zealanders and the Lunar New Year as a celebration of diversity and unity.

But for many Chinese immigrants, Mandarin or Cantonese are their first and often only languages. And while we've come a long way in bridging cultural gaps, there are still challenges when it comes to digital access. From setting up businesses to accessing health services, language and cultural barriers can pose significant hurdles.

Here are some top tips to make digital content more accessible for our Chinese Kiwi community.

Keep it Simple

When creating digital content, whether it's for websites, apps, or social media, aim for clarity and simplicity. Avoid using complex language, technical jargon or abbreviations that might be difficult for non-native speakers to understand. Keep sentences short and straightforward to ensure that your message is easily understood.

Support Translation

Semantic HTML refers to using markup language that helps define the meaning and structure of web content. By using semantic HTML tags appropriately, you make it easier for translation tools (like Google Translate) to identify and translate your content properly. This ensures that your message and meaning cross different languages.

Mind the Colours

In Chinese culture, the symbolism of colours can differ from our interpretations. For example, while red traditionally signifies good luck and prosperity in Chinese culture, it might be associated with danger or warnings for many of us. Be mindful of cultural differences in colour symbolism when designing digital interfaces or creating visual content.

Consider Cultural Norms

Cultural norms and customs vary across different communities. Provide explanations and context for concepts or practices that may not be familiar to Chinese New Zealanders and many others. This helps create a more inclusive and understanding digital environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

Use Icons and Images

Visual elements such as icons and images can transcend language barriers and convey meaning more effectively than text alone. Incorporate culturally relevant symbols and visuals to enhance understanding and engagement among Chinese New Zealanders.

Use Relatable Content

Tailor your digital content to resonate with the experiences and interests of Chinese New Zealanders. Incorporate culturally relevant themes, stories, and references to foster a sense of connection and belonging within the community. Use Chinese people in your images, and remember the alt text needs to reflect cultural diversity.

Remember Accents Matter

When designing speech recognition or voice input interfaces, consider the diverse range of accents and pronunciations within the Chinese New Zealand community. Test and optimise your interfaces to accurately recognize and interpret speech patterns from various linguistic backgrounds. Just for fun, here is a classic video about the problems with accents, although not Chinese.

Support Translation with HTML

Ensure that your web content is designed to support easy translation into different languages. By structuring your content using semantic HTML and providing language tags, you make it easier for translation services to localise your content for Chinese New Zealand audiences. 

Include Appropriate Language Tags

Including language tags in your web pages helps search engines and translation tools identify the language of your content. This improves the accuracy of language-specific searches and facilitates the translation process for multilingual audiences. There are also Chinese screen reader users and the language tags makes it a lot easier for them to understand what is happening.

Include Captions, and Audio Describe Videos

Providing captions, transcripts and audio descriptions for videos enhances accessibility and comprehension for Chinese New Zealanders (and anyone) who may be learning English as a second language. Captions also benefit individuals with hearing impairments and those watching when volume might be appropriate, ensuring that your content is inclusive and accessible to all.

Avoid Time Restrictions

Time restrictions on websites aren't great for anyone. So, recognise that language and cultural differences may affect the speed at which individuals consume and process information. Avoid imposing unnecessary time constraints on digital interactions to accommodate varying levels of language proficiency and cultural understanding.

Reduce Text Input

Minimise the need for extensive text input in digital interfaces to mitigate language-related errors and frustrations. Where possible, provide alternative input methods such as voice commands or selection menus to streamline user interactions and enhance user experience.


By incorporating these tips into your digital content strategy, you can create a more inclusive and accessible online experience for Chinese New Zealanders. Celebrate diversity, foster understanding, and embrace cultural richness in our digital communities! And if you need help, then contact Access Advisors and we will guide you through the process.

Wishing you all a prosperous and joyous Lunar New Year!