Signal is a new charity with a long history.

The organisation was founded in 2013 by the coming together of two well established charities, the Woodford Foundation and the Shropshire Deafness Association. These organisations have been engaged in enabling people with hearing loss in the UK and overseas for over a century and a half.

Shropshire Deafness Association

shropshire-deaf-association-logoThe history of Shropshire Deafness Association spans 150 years.

In 1856 the Church Mission to the Deaf and Dumb in South Staffordshire and Shropshire was founded to provide support and assistance to deaf people throughout the region.

In 1955, the organisation purchased Brierley House in Shrewsbury as a centre for deaf social events and church activities.

In 1963, a local committee -The Shropshire Christian Association with Deaf People (SCAD) – was established to oversee the delivery of services in Shropshire, although a single trustee body remained responsible for both Shropshire and Wolverhampton.

In 1993 it was decided that each area would operate separately and SCAD became an independent charity in its own right.

In 2002 Brierley House was sold and the income was used to support grant giving charitable activities and an outreach worker supporting vulnerable deaf adults.

In 2011 SCAD commissioned a report to understand the need for services and assistance to people with hearing loss in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin and further afield. This independent report highlighted the growing problems faced by an aging population which are increasingly more likely to suffer from hearing loss. This problem is particularly exacerbated by the fact that rural Shropshire has a dispersed population, compounding the issues of isolation experienced by many people with hearing loss. The report recommended that SCAD partner with the Woodford Foundation (see below) and employ a Development Manager to undertake further investigations into how best to develop services and assistance.

In September 2012 a Development Manager was employed and has developed a wide network of partners and stakeholders.

In early 2013 the Development Manager recommended that SCAD and the Woodford Foundation join together to share their focus and expertise.

Woodford Foundation

woodford_full_logoWoodford was established in 2004 to offer help and empowerment to deaf children and their families overseas. Woodford was set up by four retired professionals who had worked throughout their careers with sensory-impaired children and their families. Their work in the UK also took them overseas, where they witnessed the enormous need for services. It was named after the founding trustee, Miss Doreen Woodford, who had had a lifelong commitment to the interests of deaf and deafblind children. Miss Woodford died in 2011, but her unequivocal enthusiasm and dedication to deaf children here in the UK and around the world has meant that she has touched thousands of people and improved their lives for the better.

In 2009 Woodford opened a fulltime office and has managed multiple projects funded by Comic Relief and the Scottish Government.

Work undertaken covered Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi.

Projects included:

  • Family and community awareness and communication training
  • Pre-school programmes to help deaf children
  • HIV/AIDS awareness projects with families of deaf children
  • Teacher training
  • Community projects to work with local people to allay fears about witchcraft and other superstitions
  • Construction, development and sustainability of vocational training.

Woodford always involved local beneficiaries and key stakeholders in planning and piloting projects and this continues into Signal’s work.

Key features of its work were empowerment of beneficiaries, rights advocacy, rigorous monitoring and working in partnership with African organisations.

Woodford’s work produced powerful evidence that the approach is effective, in terms of cost and impact, as it always worked in partnership with deaf people, their families, schools, communities and local organisations to change awareness and aspiration.