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Subject guides: Deaf Studies and Signed Languages


Deaf Studies is a subject without a specific definition. Broadly it can be considered to include any research or practice related to deaf persons, their language, and their lives.

Terminology in deafness can be a personal and often a controversial issue. The term deaf people is used throughout this guide in a general way to describe people with all degrees of deafness. Visit Deafresource for more information about the Deaf community in the UK.

The principle collection for deaf studies is at the RNID Library, housed at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital (RNTNEH) with the UCL Ear Institute. UCL is also home to DCAL, the Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre. The RNID Library is a co-operative venture between UCL and RNID.

Relevant printed materials can also be found throughout all of the collections at UCL Library Services.

Printed collections

The principal collection for deaf studies is in the RNID Library at the Royal National Throat Nose & Ear Hospital.

Book collections

The RNID Library has it’s own classification scheme for arranging books on the shelves; a typical classmark looks like this:


This is the classmark for ‘Inside deaf culture ’ by Carol Padden and Tom Humphries, where:

  • RNID is the book collection.
  • YBX DHH is the classification.

The following is a simple guide to subject locations at the RNID Library:

P – Audiology

Q – Hearing Science

SGT – Psychoacoustics / Psychology of hearing

SVB - Psychology and deafness

UTB – Signed languages

WTG - Deaf education

Y – Deaf history and culture

YD - Acquired hearing loss / deafened people

The RNID Library collection also includes biographies of deaf people or influential people concerned with deafness, works of fiction by deaf authors or with deaf characters and an extensive selection of research reports and self-help literature from governments, laboratories, and voluntary organisations.

As deaf studies is such a wide-ranging subject there is useful material in virtually all of the UCL Libraries. Collections of particular relevance include Psychology in the Science Library, the Language and Speech Science Library, and Public Policy in the Main Library for disability issues. The Bartlett Library is also relevant for building design and acoustics, for example optimising classroom acoustics for deaf pupils. See separate pages for maps and opening hours.


Periodicals are shelved separately from the books in the journals room at the RNID Library. As well as scholarly journals on deaf studies, sign languages, and audiology, the RNID Library also holds magazines from appropriate organisations, including 'One in Seven' from RNID, 'British Deaf News' from the BDA [British Deaf Assocation] and the 'NDCS Magazine' [National Deaf Children's Society].

All RNID periodicals are reference only.

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Electronic collections

Electronic sources:

Material held in electronic form is available to registered members of UCL: you will usually need your UCL Information Systems username and password in order to gain access to them. You may also need to set an Athens cookie to access certain resources.


There are thousands of full-text journals available online to UCL members. The following important titles for deaf studies are available electronically at UCL:

  • American Annals of the Deaf
  • Deafness and Education International
  • Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education
  • Sign Language and Linguistics
  • Sign Language Studies

More details about the audiology journals available can be found here.


There is no single commercial 'deaf studies database' to recommend, however The National Technical Institite for the Deaf (NTID), based at the Rochester Institite of Techonology have created the NTID Deaf Index, which includes over 18,000 records drawn from materials in the NTID Library collection. The index is available online and is a valuable resource for any researchers into deaf studies. Many of the papers listed in the index are available from the RNID Library.

There are also a number of databases covering relevant subjects available at UCL. Some of the key databases are:

  • British Education Index - for research on policy and practice in education and training in the UK.
  • ERIC - for journal articles and research reports about edcuation.
  • Linguistics & Language Behaviour Abstracts ( LLBA) - for journal articles covering all apsects of the study of language - including signed languages.
  • PsychINFO - for literature about psychology
  • Medline - for journal articles about clinical medicine
  • Web of Science - a service that includes the ISI Citation indexes, three databases with a broader mulitdisciplinary coverage of Arts and Humanities, Science, and Social Sciences. It also includes a conference proceedings database and the Citations Report database – home of journal impact factors.

Related subjects of interest include Politics and Public Policy, Phonetics and Linguistics, and Anthropology.

For a complete list of databases available at UCL, see www.ucl.ac.uk/library/database. All the above databases can be accessed from this page. You can either browse resources alphabetically, or display a list by subject.

Information about access to electronic resources for NHS staff from trusts associated with UCL can be found here

For advice on accessing and using databases and e-journals, or to book an information skills training session, please contact the libraries.


A small but growing number of eBooks are available. Individual eBooks can be searched for and appear in the library catalogue (with a link).

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Other libraries

There are hundreds of thousands of websites considering deafness and related issues, the quality and reliability of which varies enormously. The Intute Virtual Training Suite has a tutorial for students using the Internet for Social Research Methods, that includes advice on how to search online and on evaluating the information found on websites.

This is a short directory of websites useful for deaf studies, with a UK focus.

Searchable resources and web gateways :

  • Directgov Disabled People - UK Government portal for disabled people and disability information.
  • Intute - aimed at UK higher education students, Intute is an 'online service providing you with a database of hand selected Web resources for education and research.'
  • The NHS Specialist Collection for ENT and Audiology is a part of NHS Evidence, and is the NHS online gateway to information about hearing loss and audiology.
  • NTID Deaf Index - an index of over 18,000 records of periodicals, conference proceedings, and professional papers about deaf studies and sign language. Compiled by Jonathan Millis, a librarian at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in America.
  • OpenSigle - a database of European 'grey literature', including, for example, 'technical or research reports, doctoral dissertations, some conference papers and pre-prints, and some official publications'.
  • Social Care Online - a database of information about social care and social issues drawn from research briefings, reports, government documents, journal articles, and websites. The database is produced by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).

UK deaf organisations:


  • British Deaf History Society (BDHS) - BDHS promotes interest in research into the history of deaf people and communities, and in the preservation of relevant resources. They publish the 'British Deaf History Journal' and a number of books, as well as holding regular meetings.
  • Deaf Culture Online - the website of American writer Mark Drolsbaugh, author of both humerous and serious books and columns about being deaf and Deaf Culture.
  • Deafhood - Due to launch late 2009. The website of Dr Paddy Ladd, author of 'Understanding Deaf Culture: in search of Deafhood'.
  • Deafstation - BSL information resource and news service from the University of Bristol.

British Sign Language (BSL):

  • ArtSigns, EngineeringSigns, ScienceSigns - online BSL / English glossaries from the University of Wolverhampton.
  • BSL Academy - BDA website developed to improve awareness of BSL and improve BSL teaching.
  • Signature - is a charity devoted to encouraging 'excellence in communication with deaf people', a role that includes that accrediting BSL qualifications in the UK. If you are interested in learning BSL this site has full details of courses and colleges, as well as supporting resources.



  • BATOD (British Association of Teachers of the Deaf) -
  • Clerc Center - from Gallaudet University in Washington DC, the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center exists to provide information, training and assistance for parents and professionals.
  • Special Educational Needs (SEN) on Teachernet - the UK Government portal for teachers, the SEN site has a number of resources, including relevant legislation, a toolkit and codes of practice, data sources and news updates.


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Contact details

If you have any problems in using the Library, come to the Enquiry Desk, or ask for the subject librarian for Deaf Studies and Signed Languages:

Alex Stagg
E-mail rnidlib@ucl.ac.uk
Telephone: 020 7915 1553

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Last modified 23 December 2008

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