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Deaf activists celebrate Zoo's new deaf-friendly displays

Published Date: 07 Jul 2022

A group of seven deaf young activists visited Five Sisters Zoo on Sunday, 19 June, to inspect the new deaf-friendly information displays they helped to inspire.

The group, who hail from all over Scotland, are members of the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Changemaker programme, which supports and mentors young deaf people to make improvements in their local communities.

The Changemakers have been working with the zoo since 2019 on enabling deaf visitors to learn more about the animals by adding videos with subtitles and British Sign Language translation, accessible via a QR code, to the information displays.

The culmination of their visit was a tour of the zoo, led by the Head of Education Adam Welsh, to see the new displays in action.

Before the tour, the group discussed the issues they would like to persuade political parties to take on board, concluding that improvements to the support deaf children receive in school was the priority.

They also attended workshops in which they discussed possible areas for future campaigning and talked about how to reach politicians.

Five Sisters Zoo is now working closely with the charity to create a more formal partnership, which could result in accessible opportunities for deaf young people and deaf awareness training for their staff.

Changemaker Kara Gillespie, 16, from Motherwell, said:

“It was great being back at the zoo to see the changes they had made to help the deaf community. I felt proud to have been part of the group that had helped make it happen.

“I hope deaf visitors will find it more inclusive and maybe enjoy the experience better. I intend to keep campaigning for deaf awareness in the future.”

Adam Welsh, Head of Education at Five Sisters Zoo, said:

“I was thrilled to go out on a tour of the zoo with everyone who attended, and it really was brilliant spending time with such an enthusiastic group of young people.

“I really hope that the feedback provided by the Changemakers will help us with our commitments to make Five Sisters Zoo accessible for as many visitors as possible and move forward with more of these in the future.”

Rachael MacLeod, Participation Officer at the National Deaf Children’s Society, Scotland, said:

“We formed the Changemakers so that deaf children and young people could drive positive change in their communities, and it’s wonderful to see all their hard work come to fruition.

“The staff of the Zoo were really open to the group’s suggestions and really bought into the idea of making their information accessible for their deaf visitors.

“Some of the Changemakers have other disabilities and the group is now discussing how it can widen its campaign and make public places as accessible as possible for all disabled people.”