The Deaf Academy has officially opened its £10.5million new home in Exmouth.
Its ‘cutting edge’ campus – on the site of the former Rolle College – will welcome students, aged from five to 25, from across the UK.
The academy has moved from its former home of nearly 200 years in Topsham Road, Exeter.
Covid-19 had delayed the completion of the project earlier this year while it was in its final stages.
The new Deaf Academy features cutting-edge Deafspace architecture and technology designed to enhance and improve the learning for its students.
Principal Sylvan Dewing said: “We are delighted to open our doors to our students.
“The new academy will be an amazing space for young deaf people to learn and develop.
“Of course, things are a little different as we implement social distancing measures, but this is an incredible new space where our students will thrive and grow.
“This is a building which has been designed specifically for young deaf people and the staff who will be working in it.
“It will be wholly inclusive and enable our students to live, learn and grow their independence in a safe, state-of-the-art environment.”
The new Deaf Academy in Exmouth features a high-ceilinged atrium at its heart.
Corridors are wider so people can walk side-by-side and sign to each other and corners of circulation routes are curved to enable students to move safely around the building.
In the classrooms, desks are placed in a horseshoe shape to enhance communication.
Break-out rooms provide space where students can be taught in small groups, take time out or receive therapies, such as speech and language therapy.
The proximity to the classrooms will mean students no longer have to take prolonged periods away from their lessons to receive therapies, either off-site or in other areas of the academy.
Staff at the academy worked with South West-based architects Stride Treglown in the development of the new academy.
Carl Harding, architect specialising in education design, said: “We undertook a lot of research, looking at other deaf schools across Europe and the United States of America, and particularly the work of the Gallaudet University in the US to understand the unique challenges and opportunities that this exciting project posed.
“Everything possible has been done to create an environment which improves and enhances communication, right down to the wall colours providing contrasting backgrounds, so people can see each other’s hands clearly when they are signing.
“Internally visual connection and privacy have been carefully considered, with a range of solid, transparent and translucent surfaces.
“We have created light open spaces to optimise visual communication for sign language and lip-reading, and will provide good acoustics to maximise access to sound for those using assistive technology.”
Residential students will live together with care staff in ‘family’ flats.
In these brand-new, self-contained flats with a common room, students have the opportunity to grow as young people, says the academy.
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