A Black Country based deaf charity is building on its employability support for local employers following a second funding boost from Walsall Business Support.

Zebra Access has received a £6,000 grant to continue its work with employers to help Deaf and hard of hearing people seek, gain and sustain employment.

The funding will allow Zebra Access to deliver Deaf Awareness and basic British Sign Language training sessions to at least 20 employers and third sector organisations across Walsall.

Established in 2005, Zebra Access is a registered charity dedicated to ensuring that all Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people, both adults and children, enjoy equal participation and access without communication barriers.

The additional funding from Walsall Business Support builds upon the success of the initial grant of £6,500 in 2023 which supported Zebra Access to deliver Deaf awareness and Basic British Sign Language training sessions to 30 Walsall employers and reaching 160 delegates.

In addition, Zebra Access will use the funding to engage with employers and businesses around their responsibilities under the Equality Duty legislation and give feedback on reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Training will also cover information on the Government’s Access to Work (AtW) Scheme which can support disabled people with support and adjustments to remain in work.

Formed by leading local business figures to distribute funds collected from the legacy of Walsall Chamber of Commerce, Walsall Business Support provides grants to applicants who want funding for projects to enhance business life in the borough.

Zebra Access’ fundraising officer, Bob Marsh said: “We are truly grateful for the very kind grant received from Walsall Business Support once again.

“This follows the huge success of the first round of Deaf Awareness and Basic BSL training sessions that we delivered during 2023 overachieving our target reaching 30 employers. Hence, we realised many more employers and third sector organisations would benefit from the training as much as those that took part the first-time round.”

Zebra Access’ project development manager, Chris Beech added: “This funding cannot be understated for it is crucial to continue raising deaf awareness amongst employers and the wider public.

“Especially, in light of recent RNID “It does matter’ research 2024 which reports that 65% of people with hearing loss, 73% of deaf people and 82% of BSL users agree that there is still stigma towards their communities, whereas only 42% of the general public share this view.

“This clearly demonstrates the need to raise public awareness of hearing loss and deafness, increase their confidence in communicating with Deaf communities and alleviate any concerns from the public about how they might be perceived if they were to try to interact.”

Walsall Business Support board member John Murray said: “We were so impressed with the impact Zebra Access has had on Walsall businesses through the first phase of the project that we were delighted to award the charity with a second grant to continue their positive work.

“Zebra Access is a fantastic example of organisations who are supporting businesses to generate employment opportunities and bridge the gap between the Deaf community and employers in the region.”

The Midcounties Co-operative is one of the employers which has received specialist training from experts at Zebra Access, and earlier this year made a significant donation to the charity as part of its ongoing commitment to give back to the community.

Tarra Simmons, Head of Community and Democratic Engagement at the Midcounties Co-operative, said: “The work being done across the region by Zebra Access is truly exemplary and their training plays an important part in ensuring we as a business are open and accessible for everyone.

“We look forward to seeing more of their remarkable work in the future and will continue to work closely with their team to see how we can provide further positive impact for local people.”

Zebra Access is a Deaf-led organisation that shapes the culture and values of how they deliver services. The broad spectrum of specialist services allows the charity to take a holistic approach when working with individual Deaf, Deafblind, Hard of Hearing and Deafened customers some distance from the workplace and thus encourages empowerment and independence

Historically, Deaf, Deafblind, Hard of Hearing and Deafened people experience low confidence to approach employers because of the difficulty in communicating and lack of accessible facilities.

As Deaf people are four times more likely to be unemployed, this could have such serious impact that many opportunities are lost, and they can become disillusioned and sceptical of any support offered.

Walsall Business Support can provide grants and a free training needs analysis to businesses looking to generate growth, create employment or shape training opportunities for the borough of Walsall. Using an online application form on the WBS website, bids for financial support can be submitted by businesses needing investment in a new project or a company wanting to improve skills.

For more information, please go to: https://walsallbusinesssupport.co.uk/