UCL News


DTI visits Deafness, Cognition & Language Research Centre

12 June 2007

Sir Brian Bender, permanent secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry, and Professor Ian Diamond, Chief Executive of the Economic & Social Research Council, visited the UCL Deafness, Cognition & Language Research Centre (DCAL) at UCL last week to learn how it is working to improve the daily lives of deaf people.

Professor Ian Diamond learns about DCAL's research

Professor Bencie Woll, Director of DCAL, welcomed the guests and explained that the centre's mission is to study the origins, development and processes of language using the communication of deaf people as a model.

The staff at the centre aim to change perceptions of deafness through an interdisciplinary approach, integrating psychological, linguistic, developmental and neuroscientific research.

Professor Woll went on to outline the centre's research focuses, community engagement and future plans.

Dr Joanna Atkinson, a postdoctoral fellow, then described her work on atypical sign language, particularly focusing on signers who are autistic. She discussed her research in BSL, with Roger Beeson interpreting for Sir Brian and Professor Diamond.

Dr Fiona Kyle, another postdoctoral fellow, explained the speech reading test she has developed, which tests how children as young as five focus on the movements of a speaker's mouth, and how this affects reading ability in both hearing and deaf children.

Two PhD students at the centre met Sir Brian and Professor Diamond: Helen Earis spoke about her work on the way reference is marked in spoken and sign languages, and Donna Lewin discussed her research on mouth actions in British Sign Language.

During the concluding question and answer session, Professor Woll described various ways in which the centre is working with the Higher Education Funding Council for England, including a project to develop a sign language curriculum for use in higher education.

To find out more about the work of the Deafness, Cognition & Language Research Centre, follow the link at the top of this article.

Image 1: MA student Rob Skinner (left) with Professor Ian Diamond
Image 2: Dr Joanna Atkinson describes her work to Sir Brian Bender and Professor Diamond