access ambassadors staff photo

About Us

You don’t have a step by step guide on ‘how to make your services accessible’

(let’s be honest, life would be much simpler and the problem could be solved quicker if there was!)

You just need to find someone who can help you with an accessibility question.

Well, you’re in the right place. We’re here to help you with the ideas, policies and processes that will make your organisation accessible and inclusive.

Oh, and did you know that Access Ambassadors is a non-profit organisation? That means our services help you (AND our local community!)

Who we are:

Debbie:

The key protagonist and organiser of all things ‘Access Ambassadors’. Without Debbie, there is no organisation. If you want something done, need to brainstorm ideas, have a question or need information, then you need to ask Debbie. Every organisation needs a Debbie on their team.

Key skills: qualified BSL interpreter, trainer and advisor. In the real world, Debbie is a parent of teenagers so has additional skills as a motivational speaker.

Olivia:

Debbie’s partner in crime. If Olivia was in Start Trek, Jean Luc Picard would be asking her to ‘make it so’. Olivia is equally as passionate about equality as Debbie.

Key skills: CoDA (child of Deaf Adults), parent, native British Sign Language user and the best administrator in MK

Bob:

Bob is a BSL tutor extraordinaire. The results from his accredited courses are off the charts (99% pass rate for over 50 students during the first and second pandemic lockdown!).

Key skills: qualified BSL teacher, parent, native British Sign Language user

We also have a host of volunteers, management committee members all dedicated to supporting our passion for making organisations accessible and inclusive.

What we do:

We teach, we advise, we provide information and we help you connect with the Deaf Community. We have worked with a number of local organisations to improve accessibility. Check out our case summaries below:

Community Foundation:

We received funding to support Deaf Awareness training across the voluntary sector. Our aim was to improve understanding of the diverse communication needs that voluntary sector service users have. Staff from the Community Foundation attended one of our sessions and posted their view on what they learned.

Community Action MK

Staff from Community Action MK received training as part of the Deaf Awareness project. With campaigns such as BLM highlighting the importance of inclusion, Community Action recognises the need for their services to be accessible.

Thames Valley Police:

We were approached by Thames Valley Police after a number of officers expressed an interest in learning Sign language. Through discussions, several police officers were supported in learning Sign Language. The aim was to create a pool of police officers who could be part of the Police Liaison Officers for the Deaf (P.L.O.D) scheme. Sign Language users need police services as much as any other community, so individual officers courses were funded by TVP. There are now three officers (one CID, one forensic officer and CSPO) who can use sign language.

Luton Borough Council:

Adult Social Care needed basic BSL and Deaf Awareness training for new recruits. At the end of the course, attendees were able to hold a  basic conversation with a Deaf person.

Hazard Alley Safety Centre:

The volunteers had deaf awareness and BSL training as part of the Community Foundation-funded project. Attendees learned how to adapt their communication styles to match visitors communication methods.

Tesco:

We liaised with Tesco so that MK Deaf Zone volunteers could get support to start their activities. We also supported jobseekers into employment with Tesco.

Wetherspoons:

We provided interpreting services for a new recruit and advised Wetherspoons on Access to Work funding, how it works and what processes are involved for the employer.  

MK Jobcentre Plus:

We regularly liaise with Jobcentre Plus staff to ensure jobseekers are supported appropriately. When we ran our ESF projects, many job seekers were referred to us by Jobcentre plus staff

MK Citizens Advice:

Citizens Advice volunteers received Deaf Awareness training as part of the Community Foundation project. We have also liaised with the CAB when they trialled a video interpreting services. Citizens Advice were pioneers in using the service. Since Covid hit, we have facilitated communication by providing interpreting services. However, the CAB is aware of the need for inclusive services and provide

Milton Keynes SENDias:

We provided Deaf Awareness and BSL training. We also supported the annual SENDias conference with interpreting support.

MK Snowzone:

We regularly provide BSL sessions for children who attend Sonzone’s kids camp. Nathan, the children’s activities manager had this to say:

“I would just like to say a big thank you to Bob and Holly for their lesson on Friday last week. It was a great experience and the kids really enjoyed themselves”.

Sainsbury’s:

We have worked with various stores across our region providing Deaf Awareness training, BSL sessions for staff and interpreting support for employees.

The Stables:

Prior to the pandemic, The Stables venue volunteers participated in our Deaf Awareness drive by taking part in Deaf Awareness training sessions. We also advised on how to make future events (particularly the IF Festival) more inclusive to sign language users.

Milton Keynes Gallery:

Mk Gallery contacted us for advice on how to make the new section of MK Gallery accessible as well as their exhibitions. Now that the extension has been completed, it is encouraging to see accessible events (BSL interpreted activities) a regular feature in MK Gallery’s activity programme.

MKCIL:

We have worked closely with Milton Keynes Centre for Integrated Living (MKCIL) over the years. Their volunteers are informative and have a breadth of knowledge on all aspects of disability. We liaise with MKCIL on a regular basis to support measures that encourage accessibility.

Milton Keynes Museum:

MK Museum contacted us regarding the accessibility of the new display building. We visited the museum and advised on various aspects to improve accessibility such as adding subtitles to video clips.

Morrisons:

We were contacted by a local Morrisons store after they had recruited deaf employees. The staff wanted to be able to communicate with new staff. We ran sessions for staff to learn basic BSL greetings as well as different communication strategies.

Network Rail:

Network Rail approached us for sign language training. The organisation offered BSL sessions as part of their annual inclusion week.

Santander:

Santander were instrumental in helping us attend our first MK Job Show. They funded sign language interpreter provision and we were able to support over 20 Deaf job seekers at the event. Santander is one of the many companies in Milton Keynes that recognise the importance of inclusive practice.

MK Pride Festival:

We supported the first Pride festival by providing advice, Deaf awareness training and communication support at the event. The event coordinators now organise the event to include BSL interpreters at the different stages so Deaf festival goers can access the comedy shows, singers and performers just as much as other festival attendees.

NHS England:

Recently, we advised our local NHS England Commissioner on the accessibility of a new online interpreting service. There were many aspects of the service that was not appropriate for the intended audience. Our advice led to changes that improved some aspects of the service. This is an ongoing project as regional healthcare services learn how best to meet the needs of patients with different communication needs.

BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group:

We have participated in discussions with BLMK CCG with the aim of making public information more accessible. At the beginning of the pandemic and through successive lockdowns

Milton Keynes Council:

Milton Keynes Council is currently reviewing the sensory service contract. We have supported the  Council and the current Sensory Service provider, SARC to engage with local sign language users. We have also provided several reports over the years with details of accessibility issues. The Council is now moving towards a social model of disability.

Access Bedford:

We are working with Access Bedford for an upcoming project. Access Bedford supported our activities at MK Job Show to make sure the event was accessible for sign language users. As a result of interpreters attending the event, two jobseekers gained full-time employment.

…and finally:

We have also worked with a number of schools across Milton Keynes, helping children to be deaf aware. A number of employers have also benefitted from our support with the provision of BSL interpreters and Deaf Awareness training for staff.