Telethon 1981 was for the International Year of the Disabled. The Sign Singers, formed the previously year, were invited to perform at the telethon, and this gave a huge public awareness boost not just for the group but for sign language and the Deaf community as a whole. They repeated their attendance in 1985, where the Christchurch Silent Signers also performed in Christchurch, as they did again in 1990.
The 1981 Telethon, during which Bruce McHattie worked 24 sponsored hours, contributed $800,000 towards communication services for Deaf people, most of which went to establishing the Teletext service and related hardware. Telethon 1985 drew the highest total donation of any NZ telethon, with over $6 million raised.