MK Deafzone

MK Deaf Zone

Milton Keynes Deaf Zone (MKDZ) was formed in July 2015 and officially launched in January 2016. The aim of the collective is to promote independence, health and well-being and encourage participation in the wider community. MK Deaf Zone supports sign language users (including those who have cochlear implants) and welcomes anyone across the range of hearing loss as well as family members.

Deaf zone groups:

MK Deaf Zone is a volunteer-led group that offers a range of activities including badminton and a craft club. There is also a monthly afternoon session at John Lewis community room. Wednesday afternoon sessions are particularly important for older members who catch up on news and find out important information. The sessions are also a great way for older sign language users to continue Deaf Culture.

Deaf Culture is kept alive through activities and the use of British Sign Language (BSL) as the main method of communication. Many volunteers and group attendees are bi-lingual so use BSL and English. However, most attendees use BSL to access information and are therefore native sign language users.

Around 10 volunteers run MKDZ groups to support the wider Deaf Community. Most of the group’s activities are aimed at adults, although there are family events during the summer such as the Deaf Picnic.

Group activities:

Volunteers support or run other activities such as a quarterly meet up at Wetherspoons pub, Deaf football, Deaf astronomy and Deaf walks. Activities are advertised on the group’s Facebook page. Many of our BSL Learners attend these events to practise their BSL skills.

From time to time, the volunteers organise days out. To date, days out have included Ladies Day at Ascot, Kensington Palace to see Princess Diana’s dresses and more recently, a tour around Bletchley Park.

Group volunteers have also enjoyed educational activities such as a First Aid course and a Diabetes presentation.

MK Deaf Zone volunteers encourage other sign language users to get involved in activities. The volunteers are keen to see others become part of the local Deaf Community.

Covid’s impact on MK Deaf Community

Since Covid hit, many Deaf people have remained isolated and unable to meet with friends. Most of the events described above are still on hold as many Deaf people do not feel comfortable going out and mixing with others. Wearing masks has been particularly problematic for the Deaf community. Many deaf people have found others unwilling to remove their masks in order to communicate.

Covid also impacted deaf people’s ability to contact organisations. To alleviate the stress caused by inaccessible services, we created a new MK Deaf Zone website with links to organisations that use a video relay service. We worked with Deaf community members (across age groups) so we know the website is accessible as it has been tried and tested by many sign language users.

The site also has other information such as finding deaf-friendly work and a list of resources for parents to support them and their deaf children.

The MK Deaf Zone website is one of many websites we have created. However, MK Deaf Zone was created with the intention that the site is accessible for a specific audience. By creating the site, we are ensuring that Deaf community members are included in our community.

We have worked with volunteers on a number of projects such as Tech and Tea. The intention of this project was to empower individuals by giving community members knowledge that will help them become independent.

If you would like to know more about the process of creating an accessible website, or if you would like a deaf perspective and want to gain feedback on a future project, then please get in touch.