The seeds for the Leicester Deaf Centre came about after the sale of the mission building on Welford Road in 2010. The Leicester and County Mission for the Deaf was based there for 49 years and the building was home to many community groups. When it was sold these groups had to find alternative accommodation.
Around the same time a small group of Deaf people decided to set up a coffee morning at All Nations Church and three sign language interpreters came together and decided to give something back to the Deaf Community by offering a pro bono translation service during this coffee morning.
This allowed the Deaf Community to get their letters translated and to make phone calls to the council, housing associations etc. As this service grew, from once a month, to fortnightly, to weekly, it became apparent that an office would be needed, if for no other reason than to store the paperwork that this work generated in a secure and confidential manner.
As luck would have it, All Nations Church owned the building next door and the air conditioning factory that was in it had closed down leaving the office space empty. It was decided to rent these offices from the surplus made by the fledgling interpreting service. A name was decided on, Signing Network.
Over the last 11 years the services at the Deaf Centre have expanded. The coffee morning is still going on a Monday and now the Over 50s Deaf Club also call the centre home on a Wednesday. Volunteers help run the charity shop, the coffee morning and the Over 50s. The pro bono ethos is still strong and Deaf people looking for work can now access an employment service, whilst hearing people can find BSL classes here taught by Deaf people (always the best way to learn!).
The interpreting service became a separate entity, iNet Interpreting Ltd, an interpreting cooperative run on a voluntary basis by freelance interpreters who provide services to organisations across Leicestershire, including the University Hospitals of Leicester.
Signing Network still offers a letter translation and support service on a Monday and can help Deaf people with PIP claim forms.