Imagine feeling left out of conversations because you can’t understand what your family are saying to you or the enormous sense of isolation because you can’t make yourself understood by your school friends or workmates. Sadly, for many Deaf people this can be an everyday reality in the wider hearing world.

During National Deaf Awareness Week, 2-8 May, we’ll open registrations for a brand new challenge event called ‘Voice Off’. This is a fun communication challenge where individuals, schools, businesses, clubs and groups 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).

Voice Off day is Wednesday 15 June. The ultimate challenge is 24 hours, but participants can create a sponsored challenge personal to them on a day that they choose. School children or a whole class could be sponsored to turn off their voice for one lesson. Workmates could raise sponsorship by taking the challenge for part of a working day.

The challenge aims to raise 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.

Everyone who registers and raises funds will be invited to a fun and friendly basic Deaf awareness session provided free of charge by British Sign Language training providers, SignUp BSL.

Alternatively, an Exeter Deaf Academy volunteer will visit a school, group or workplace to teach some top communication tips and basic BSL ahead of the challenge.

SignUp BSL and Deaf interpreters, Deafinite have donated their time to create free online tutorials teaching basic signs. The local paper, Express and Echo, is featuring a ‘Sign of the week’ on their website for the next six weeks until Voice Off day on Wednesday 15 June.

Deaf Academy Chief Executive and Principal, Jonathan Farnhill, thanked the Express and Echo, SignUp BSL and Deafinite for their generous support. He said:

“We have received amazing support for Voice Off and I am challenging myself to take part at work. I love to talk, as those who know me will testify, so this will be a pretty tough task. But I am looking forward to it, and would encourage everyone to join in with the Voice Off challenge”.

Jonathan continued: “The challenge is not about staying silent. Voice Off is about experiencing some of the communication challenges Deaf people face every day and finding other non-verbal ways to communicate instead. As a charity we are reliant on the generosity of the local community to support our work with Deaf young people and fundraising projects that otherwise would not happen.”

We hope participants will raise a minimum £50 sponsorship. Schools and groups can set their own fundraising target dependent on the size of their group.

Visit to register. If you have any questions about taking part, please contact the Exeter Deaf Academy Fundraising Team on 01392 267019 or email