Kezia Barclay, a Graduate Engineer for Interserve Construction, has gallantly signed up to our new sponsored challenge.

In national Deaf Awareness Week earlier this month we launched a new sponsored challenge called ‘Voice Off’.

The event aims to raise much needed funds as well as awareness of the one million Deaf young people across the UK who struggle to use or understand spoken language, as well as tackle some of the common misconceptions about deafness.

The challenge asks supporters to switch off their voice and find other ways to communicate instead. That could be writing, drawing, texting, acting or learning some basic British Sign Language (BSL).

Kezia will be taking on her Voice Off challenge at work. She said, “At work is the time I feel my challenge will be the most difficult. Working in pre-construction, I find myself continuously communicating using my voice, so I look forward to the challenge of going about my routine work without taking for granted spoken language.”

Kezia works locally for the global construction company Interserve who have been instrumental in the development of our New Build plans, helping the project to get to its current stage. Interserve have also been fundraising and supporting us in other ways such as carrying out work to expand the Counselling Room.

Kezia said, ‘For someone who spends a lot of their day talking, I see turning my voice off as a huge challenge for me as well as an opportunity to gain an insight into the communication challenges which Deaf people face on a daily basis in the hearing world. I feel this experience is especially important for me given my role as Diversity Champion for the South West region of Interserve Construction.”

She continued, “I am also an active member of the South West Young Professionals who meet to share knowledge, ideas and innovation. We regularly support each other in organising and taking part in charity events and awareness days, so I will be calling on their ideas to make sure my Voice Off challenge is a success!”

The Exeter Deaf Academy ‘Voice Off’ ultimate challenge is 24 hours but participants can create a sponsored challenge personal to them on a day that they choose. Workplace fundraisers such as Kezia are raising sponsorship by taking the challenge for part of a working day.

Although the official Voice Off day is Wednesday 15 June Kezia is taking part in her Voice Off challenge early on 8 June and hopes to raise lots of sponsorship from friends, family and her Interserve colleagues. As a charity we are not funded in the same way as state schools and rely on fundraising to support projects which would otherwise not happen. Kezia’s sponsorship will help support essential projects such as family support, counselling services, the development of a social enterprise called ‘Grow Make Sell’ that provides work experience opportunities, as well as our exciting plans to build a brand new Deaf Academy in Exeter.

We specialise in tailored education and care for Deaf young people aged 4-24. This is achieved by running a school and college in a bilingual English and British Sign Language (BSL) environment and being the only specialist day and residential Deaf education provider in the South West, supporting students from throughout the UK. We also support Deaf students learning in mainstream education by providing an outreach service.

Kezia hopes to get her work colleagues to not only support her Voice Off challenge with sponsorship but also enter into the spirit of the day by responding to her in non-verbal ways too, using writing, gesture, and signing to help spread the challenge throughout her workplace and increase deaf awareness. She is also organising a cake sale to raise extra money and encouraging more people to take part in the communication challenge with her.

Voice Off fundraisers such as Kezia will be invited to a fun and friendly basic Deaf awareness session provided free of charge by British Sign Language training providers, SignUp BSL. Staff and volunteers will also be visiting schools, groups and workplaces to teach some top communication tips and basic BSL ahead of the challenge.

Kezia said, “I am already trying to come up with ideas of how I can communicate during my Voice Off challenge, as well as ideas for getting my colleagues involved. These currently include a small white board or a tablet that I can write on all day. I also look forward to attending a Deaf Awareness session at Exeter Deaf Academy where I will learn some basic BSL. I have already taught myself how to fingerspell my name!”

“Some of my fellow colleagues have taken part in sign language lessons before so it will be great to be able to communicate with my newly learnt signing skills”.

To take part in Voice Off, visit or contact the Exeter Deaf Academy Fundraising Team on 01392 267019 or email