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Start Up Loans partners with SignLive to boost accessibility

  • The new partnership will see British Business Bank and SignLive work together on accessibility initiatives for people who rely on sign language to communicate
  • The number of British sign language users in the UK is 151,000
  • 11 million people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing

21 March 2022:The British Business Bank, is proud to announce its partnership with SignLive. SignLive, a deaf-owned organisation, will work with the Bank to improve its accessibility to deaf employees and clients by providing British Sign Language Interpretation services.

The partnership’s first project, which went live this week, is to make Start Up Loans Customer Services accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing. The British Business Bank also intends to expand this service gradually across the business throughout 2022.

This new partnership follows the recent announcement of the Bank’s partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). The RNIB is producing Braille, Audio and Large Print versions of existing Start Up Loans documents to support better accessibility across all of its customer facing channels. The British Business Bank is also the first organisation to have passed part one of the RNIB’s Visibly Better Employer Framework, which helps employers to become more inclusive.

Richard Bearman, Managing Director of Start-Up Loans, said: “Across the financial services industry, we’ve made a lot of progress in our desire to become increasingly accessible over the past few years. However, there’s always more that we can do to cater our services to people from specific backgrounds, which is why our partnership with SignLive is so important to us.

“This partnership represents our continued commitment to keep moving forwards, keep learning and making the Start Up Loans scheme as accessible as possible to people in the UK who are interested in starting their own business.”

Joel Kellhofer, CEO of SignLive
“As a deaf entrepreneur, I know how much of a difference this partnership can make for someone starting out on their business journey. I’m glad we can support Start-Up Loans in becoming more accessible and hope that it provides new opportunities for British Sign Language users in the future.”

Multi-platform functionality

Customers of the Bank can now download the SignLive app on a mobile phone or tablet, or alternatively can use a web browser. If it is the customer’s first time using the service, they will need to complete a one-time registration. Once logged in the customer can contact Start Up Loans free through the Community Directory, by tapping on British Business Bank, Start Up Loans and then ‘Call’.


Notes to editors

About Start Up Loans

The Start-Up Loans Company, part of the British Business Bank, was formed in June 2012. The Start Up Loans programme provides personal loans for business purposes of up to £25,000 at a 6% fixed interest rate per annum and offers free dedicated mentoring for 12 months and support to each business.

The primary aim of the Start Up Loans programme is to ensure that viable start-ups and early-stage businesses have access to the finance and support they need in order to thrive. A network of Delivery Partner organisations support applicants in all regions and industries throughout the UK. The Start Up Loans programme is not designed to generate a commercial profit. Capital payments together with the interest are recycled to help meet our customers’ increasing demand for finance.

Free guides on a range of subjects related to starting a business are available on the Start Up Loans website: You can find recent media coverage and press releases in the Start Up Loans Media Centre here:

The funding for the Start Up Loans programme is provided by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Start-Up Loans Company is a subsidiary of the British Business Bank plc. The bank is a development bank wholly owned by HM Government which is not authorised or regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). British Business Bank plc and its subsidiary entities are not banking institutions and do not operate as such.

The British Business Bank makes finance markets for smaller businesses work better, enabling the sector to prosper, grow and build economic activity.

Start Up Loans – impact

  • Since 2012, the Start Up Loans programme has delivered more than 92,000 loans, providing over £840 million of funding.
  • In the financial year 2020/21, the programme provided 11,408 loans with a total value of approximately £137.2 million.
  • Since 2012, 30% of loans went to people formerly unemployed or economically inactive. Two fifths (40%) were women and more than one in five (20.2%) of our loan recipients from ethnic minority groups, excluding white minorities.
  • The economic benefits of the Start Up Loans programme are almost six (5.7) times its economic costs.
  • At Spending Review 2021, the Chancellor announced resources to provide 33,000 Start Up Loans over next three years.

For more information about Start Up Loans, please visit:

About SignLive

SignLive was established in 2014 by Joel Kellhofer, a serial entrepreneur and active member of the British Deaf community. The technology has been developed in-house by a team
that has been working with Video Relay Services and Video Remote Interpreting for over 10 years.

They were the first VRS/VRI service to offer a Community Directory that allowed deaf people to call the businesses and public sector organisations listed for free.

All SignLive interpreters are fully qualified and are NRCPD-registered and DBS/PVG licenced.