Deaf with Dementia Project

Deaf with Dementia Logo

A project working to improve life for Deaf people with dementia. This unique joint project which started in April 2010 (and will finish in December 2012) aims to improve early diagnosis and management among Deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL). It is funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, and is a partnership between the University of Manchester, University College London (UCL), City University London and RAD (Royal Association for Deaf People). DCAL researchers are involved from UCL, as well as DCAL associates based at City University London. The project is led by Professor Alys Young of the University of Manchester.

This research study is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. The team encompass both Deaf and hearing researchers, and a wide range of professional backgrounds (including social work, speech and language therapy and clinical psychology) as well as multidisciplinary academic excellence in dementia, Deaf studies, linguistics and neuroscience.  The team also includes a key specialist service provider in clinical neuropsychology. 


The Deaf with Dementia project has three strands:

  • Developing a screening instrument for dementia in BSL that is culturally appropriate and normed for the Deaf population
  • Investigating the experience of dementia directly with Deaf people and their carers in order to provide an evidence base for culturally sensitive service provision
  • Working with the wider Deaf community and service providers (such as the Alzheimer’s Society) to better understand key features of acceptable and targeted information and support for Deaf people

DCAL/UCL is primarily responsible for the first strand which focuses on cognition in healthy older Deaf people. We set up the Healthy Older Deaf Brain Project which is part of the broader Deaf with Dementia project. Our remit includes developing a profile of normal ageing within the Deaf Community so that we can understand healthy cognition, memory and ageing in this group. This information will be used to develop a screening instrument for dementia in BSL that is culturally appropriate and normed for the Deaf population. 

Research update: New BSL tests are now being used in Cognitive Disorders clinic

DCAL is glad to let readers know that the data collection for the cognitive screening instrument has now finished so that we have norms for healthy Deaf people. A test is now being used within the NHS to check the scores of people referred for cognitive difficulties against the normal range for their age. This means that in conjunction with DCAL, the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (a UCL Partner) in Queens Square, London can offer appointments in their existing Cognitive Disorders Clinic to Deaf patients worried about their memory or thinking. Appointments are for patient care rather than data collection.

Find out more:
DCAL contact, email Joanna Atkinson

To find out more about the Deaf with Dementia research project and to keep up to date with progress, please go to the project web site for information in both BSL and English.