This year has also been a fantastic year for BSL and the representation of deaf people in the media. This summer the BSL Act was passed by Parliament. DCAL staff and students were delighted to join so many people on sunny days in the Spring in Trafalgar Square to campaign for this and then to celebrate the approval of the Act. This of course is just one step in ensuring greater access to BSL for deaf people. There is much work to be done and we hope that research we conduct at DCAL can contribute towards this. We have selected a summary of some of the DCAL highlights from this year for you. We hope you enjoy learning more about what we have been up to. Thank you, from all of us, for your support. We wish you a very happy Christmas and we hope 2023 will be happy and healthy for all.
In another study, we are investigating the relationship between visual communication, more broadly, and reading. This study is looking at the relationship between speechreading (lipreading) skills / BSL skills / Fingerspelling skills and later reading development. We have already visited twenty 4-year-olds and look forward to involve many more in the project. We are currently recruiting deaf children who started in reception in 2022, or will start in 2023 or 2024. We will then visit the children, at home or at school, six times over 3 years in order to follow their language and literacy progress. For more information about this project please contact Tyron Woolfe: email@example.com.
The third study is a large-scale longitudinal study looking at how preschool language skills relate to later reading development in deaf and hearing children. We started this project back in 2019 but we have not been able to see children for two years due to COVID. We’ve been very busy this year back out in schools visiting all of the children again. It was lovely to see everyone again. We have almost 190 deaf and hearing children taking part. We have been following them since preschool when they were age 3 or 4 years old and many are now 7 or 8 years old. The team is busy working through lots of data, and we are excited to share our findings with you soon. You can find out more about the Preschool Language and Literacy study and our findings at www.ladder-lab.com. A big thank you to all the teachers and children for supporting this project!
Together these three research projects will offer new insights into the development of language (both spoken and signed) and reading skills in deaf children. One key prediction across all studies is that early language skills are vital for later reading success. We anticipate that these studies will therefore lend support to the call for earlier language support for deaf children and their parents. You can find out more about these projects on our here.
In our new paper we found that regions of the brain that in hearing people are involved in understanding sounds have different roles in deaf people. We found that these regions in deaf people are involved in higher-order cognitive functions, which are the mental processes that allow people to learn and interact with the world. We also found that language skills, either in sign or spoken language, predict performance in cognitive tasks. This highlights the importance of early access to language for the development of cognitive skills, independently of the modality of the language. The art on the cover is by artist Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq. Rubbena is an artist and facilitator whose work concerns culture and deaf identity. In this work she asks ‘Why is it that given the same information, we perceive things differently?’. This collaboration is a great example of science and art coinciding to ask similar questions from different approaches.
Sign Language Linguistics Research
On 9th November we held a Festschrift symposium to celebrate the academic career of Prof. Bencie Woll, DCAL’s founding Director. Current and past colleagues discussed Bencie’s legacy across sociolinguistics, neuroscience and psychology, as well as her efforts to promote changes in public policy, public engagement and capacity building. Tributes celebrating her multidisciplinary long-lasting impact came from her collaborators from around the world, who joined in person and online. To honour Bencie’s scientific and social legacy, we have started a fundraiser for the ‘Bencie Woll Award’ for early career researchers in sign languages. You can contribute to this initiative. It was a wonderful day of celebration and togetherness! If you missed this event, a recording of the event will be available on our website soon.
Congratulations Bencie on your amazing career and achievements which continue to amaze! At the moment Bencie is working with the producers of Sign 2 Win, the gameshow on BSL Zone, to develop some new ideas for competitions on the next series. Watch out for developments!
Memorial event for Frances Elton
Widening Participation, Engagement and Community Projects
This year the DCAL stall went back on the road and visited the Deaffest, City Lit, BATOD conference and the BDA AGM. Dr. Tyron Woolfe said “It was lovely to meet so many people visiting our DCAL stall. People asked questions and we were happy to share information. We also know people loved our materials too. It was also good to meet young people keen to know about research careers too.” We hope to see you all again next year on the road and if you would like the DCAL stall to visit your event too, please get in touch.
We continue to add to our growing collection of research summaries - do check out DCAL’s Youtube page to see summaries on language attitudes, the effect of visual language in the brain, ghostwriting and many more.
Resources for research and for the community
The British Sign Language (BSL) Corpus is a publicly accessible, on-line record of BSL used by Deaf people in the UK. It’s a collection of video clips showing Deaf people using BSL. You can also explore BSL SignBank, which has approximately 2500 BSL signs developed from the BSL Corpus. In other words, BSL signs directly from the deaf community!
For qualified professionals and researchers working with deaf children and adults, the DCAL Assessment Portal hosts eight language and cognition assessments. These assessments can be used to assess language abilities and language development in deaf adults and children and assess deaf signers where there are concerns about language impairment, brain injury, brain disease, stroke or dementia. Get in touch for further information.
We continue offering a suite of Deaf Awareness online courses that aim to help health professionals better understand the communication needs of D/deaf and hard of hearing (HoH) people. These are accredited for CPD by professional bodies (e.g., the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Nursing).
Finally, make sure you check out our free Online Deaf Awareness Training for Teachers. It covers topics such as the importance of deaf awareness in the classroom setting, different perspectives of deafness, strategies for communicating with deaf pupils, and how to create a deaf-supportive learning environment.
Studying at DCAL
Changes to the Professional Services Team
We are also delighted to welcome back Sannah Gulamani from maternity leave. Sannah’s roles now include being Reasonable Adjustment Officer and the Impact and Communications Officer. Bree McDougall covered for Sannah whilst she was on maternity leave. It was great to have Bree as part of the team if only for a short time. Thank you Bree!
Happy Christmas from all of us at DCAL!
We hope you enjoyed reading our highlights. If you want to know any more about any of these topics, please do contact us.
Thank you for all of your support and interest in our work over 2022. We look forward to working together in 2023!