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									                                                                 Issue 6
                                                                 November 2009


 Education, education, education
 Deaf parents speak out for policy change

          CAL’s Deputy Director, Professor Gary Morgan,          called for changes in the policies and systems that fail
          joined 200 Deaf parents, other professionals,          to address their needs as Deaf parents, whether their
          government representatives and service                 children are hearing or deaf themselves. Commenting
 providers on 12 June 2009 at City Hall, London, for             after the conference Shadow Minister for Disability,
 a landmark conference to highlight and debate the               Mark Harper MP, endorsed the parent’s words saying:
 serious barriers Deaf parents experience in adequately          “It was a pleasure to speak at the conference. There is
 participating in their children’s school life. These barriers   still a lot further to go in removing the barriers which
 include the inability of staff to communicate in sign           deaf parents face on a daily basis, particularly with
 language, a lack of Deaf awareness or failure to put            education.”
 alternative provisions in place.
                                                                 The conference also provided an opportunity to learn
                                                                 about rights under the Disability Discrimination Act
 “There is still a lot further to go in                          and Human Rights Act and about support and training
 removing the barriers which deaf                                on offer for deaf parents. Professor Morgan addressed
 parents face on a daily basis”                                  the conference regarding DCAL’s work in the fields
                                                                 of education, good practice guidance and increased
 Mark Harper MP Shadow Minister for Disability                   understanding of how people communicate through
                                                                 signing. He also highlighted the centre’s advocacy work
 The conference was hosted by the national organisation          and its involvement with the Deaf community: “DCAL
 Deaf Parenting UK. Titled “Education, Education,                is committed to informing parents about our research
 Education” it was the biggest conference of its kind to         through a partnership with Deaf Parenting UK.”
 date, with many parents from the UK, as well as from
 Italy, Belgium, Cyprus and Greece. The parents spoke            The President of NAHT, Clarissa Williams spoke for
 frankly to representatives from the National Association        many on the use of signing in the conference: “It was
 of Head Teachers (NAHT), the Department of Children,            very salutary for me to observe how effectively the deaf
 School and Families (DCSF), and the Daycare Trust and           community communicates using sign language and
                                                                                                         continued on page 2

 Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre
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  continued from page 1

 this brought home to me the importance of expanding         help schools face up to their responsibilities.” Parent
 the use of sign language to make communication real         Carolyn Denmark expressed her hope that the parents’
 and effective amongst all parties.” She also spoke of her   accounts really would be taken back to the government
 sadness and shame at hearing examples of prejudices         and DCSF to identify their needs. She remarked on the
 parents have faced. Other parents spoke about the           attendance of Deaf parents from outside UK: “It is good
 wide variation in the standard of access to schools for     to know we had Belgian and Italian Deaf people on the
 deaf parents. Parent Cedric Moon suggested: “What           day and they found it useful and wanted to develop a
 each deaf parent should have is a Government backed         similar model to ours in their countries. It is positive to
 charter setting out what minimum services can be            have a network.” For further information see:
 expected from schools as a statutory right. This would

 dialects and
 video tapes
           any people outside the
           Deaf community may not
           imagine that the variation
 found in spoken language exists in
 signed languages too, including, for
 example regional dialects. The video
 documentation of such variation
 was the subject of the summer
 “Sign Language Corpora: Linguistic
 Issues” workshop. Other differences
 documented are those of gender,
 generation, ethnic group and social
 background. The workshop also
 discussed language change and           University of Liverpool. The two        digital collection. Funded by a £1.2
 other linguistic variations of sign     events attracted international          million grant from the Economic &
 languages across the world.             linguistics experts concerned with      Social Research Council (ESRC), the
                                         “corpus linguistics”, that is the       three-year project is associated to
 Held on 24-25 July 2009 and hosted      study of language as expressed in       DCAL and draws its team from five
 by DCAL at UCL, the workshop            samples (corpora) or “real world”       British universities. Dr Schembri
 presentations made important            text in order to better understand      explains the importance of the project:
 contributions to research that          the structure and use of spoken and     “The corpus will help us understand
 will bring improvements to sign         signed languages.                       the structure and use of BSL and
 language teaching. DCAL’s Dr Adam                                               how it develops over time. This
 Schembri and colleagues presented       The July UCL workshop was               will have a major impact on the
 on “Documenting and describing          organised by the British Sign           way BSL is taught and interpreters
 language variation and change in        Language (BSL) Corpus Project           are trained.” To read more on the
 the British Sign Language Corpus.”      team. This project is headed up by      presentations given in July and the
 The UCL workshop took place             Dr Adam Schembri and is using           BSL Corpus Project go to: http://
 directly after The 2009 Corpus          video documentation of BSL to 
 Linguistics Conference hosted by        create a unique publicly accessible     language-corpora-linguistic-issues/

 Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre
page 2                                                                                    DCAL Newsletter Issue 6
  Acclaim for computational
  modelling work

 DCAL Co-director Professor Gabriella Vigliocco and        occur as subjects of verbs like eat or chew, while words
 UCL colleague Dr Mark Andrews received acclaim for        like grass hay grain are likely to occur as their objects.
 their paper on Learning Semantic Representations with     By taking order and syntax into account the model can
 Hidden Markov Topics Models with a prize awarded at       easily recognize that horse and mule are more similar in
 the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society in    meaning than horse and grass. This work has important
 Amsterdam, July 29 - August 1, 2009, one of the year’s    implications for applications such as information
 key events for the interdisciplinary field of Cognitive   retrieval. In designing something like Google, one needs
 Science.                                                  to have the best computer algorithm for distinguishing
                                                           words with similar meaning.
 The prize was within the “Computational Modelling”
 category, awarded for the best work in the areas of       Three further papers were presented by DCAL
 perception/action, language, higher-level cognition and   researchers and collaborators. Most importantly, for
 applied cognition; with Vigliocco and Andrews’ work       the first time in its history the conference had a session
 chosen for its contribution to language research. Their   dedicated to presentations on sign language, with two
 paper presented a new computer model of how the           of these by DCAL researchers: BSL hand and mouth slips
 meaning of words can be extracted from the manner         (Vinson, Thompson, Skinner, Fox and Vigliocco) and
 in which words are used in texts. Previous models have    British Sign Language Iconicity Effects (Thompson, Vinson
 not taken into account the order in which words were      and Vigliocco).
 produced in a text, nor their syntactic role. The model
 developed by Andrews and Vigliocco takes order and        To read any of these or others from the hundreds
 syntactic information into account. As a simple example   of presentations and posters from this vibrant
 of why it is important to take syntax into account,       international meeting go to: http://csjarchive.cogsci.
 consider words like horse cow mule. These are likely to

 Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre
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 Exploring aspects of deafblind communication

        haring new understandings       American, Italian and various       space in language. The overall
        about the unique ways           Nordic universities, as well as     aim of the workshop is to jointly
        in which people who are         representatives from Swedish and    develop an agenda for European-
 deafblind can communicate will         Finnish 3rd sector organisations.   based research using deafblind
 be the focus of a European Science                                         communication as a model system
 Foundation (ESF) exploratory           Titled “The Communication Of        for exploring cognition, language
 workshop taking place at several       Deaf-blind People as a Model For    and interaction.
 UCL venues on 5-7 November 2009.       Exploring Language Modality,
 The workshop will play an important    Social Communication and Neural     A snapshot of two
 role in driving forward research       Plasticity”, the workshop will      presentations
 that can improve the quality of life   look specifically at deaf people    Dr Riitta Lahtinen’s Haptices
 for deafblind people across the        who use sign language before        and haptemes - environmental
 world and in understanding how all     later becoming blind (about 1 in    information through body and
 language is processed by the brain.    15 people born deaf) to explore     touch, explores how touch-based
 The interdisciplinary workshop,        such issues as how deafblind        communication methods can be
 convened by DCAL’s Director,           people use tactile communication,   developed for social rehabilitation,
 Professor Bencie Woll, will            the role of visual and touch (or    sign language interpreters, and
 bring together researchers in          haptic) feedback in gesture and     for professionals in healthcare and
 neuroscience, social sciences          sign language, the role of the      educational settings.
 and linguistics from British,          face, and representations of
                                                                            C Capek, B Woll, R Campbell,
                                                                            K Gazarian, M MacSweeney, P
  DEAfbLINDNESS AND LANguAgE                                                McGuire, A David, M Brammer’s:
  For those who are born deaf, and rely on vision for communication,        The neural organisation of visual and
  losing one’s sight can have devastating effects. Deafblindness isolates   manual language processing in adults
  people, creating difficulties with communication, access to information   with Usher Syndrome: FMRI evidence
  and mobility, but this can be improved with greater understanding of      of cortical plasticity explores how
  the impacts of deafblindness and appropriate support. Sign language       the brain adapts to loss of vision by
  which depends more on touch than vision is often known as hands-on        using visual areas of the brain to
  signing and includes use of the deaf - blind manual alphabet.             process tactile language.

 Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre
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 opening up European language
 learning to the Deaf community
 DCAL is involved in an exciting         of Barcelona, the Fundaciò Illescat      explanations in the learner’s own
 European project that will provide      (Deaf association of the Catalan         sign language of linguistic features
 opportunities for deaf people to        region), the Italian National Research   of the target languages. The sign
 learn foreign written and sign          Centre on Deafness (ISTC-CNR) and        languages involved are British
 languages via the internet. The         the ISISS Magarotto (an Italian deaf     Sign Language (BSL), Catalan Sign
 project, DEAL-TOI (Deaf people          association).                            Language (LSC) and Italian Sign
 in Europe Acquiring Languages                                                    Language (LIS) and the written
 through E-Learning – Transfer of        DEAL-TOI will use the way computer       languages are English, Spanish and
 Innovation), will run for two years     science technologies exploit visual      Italian.
 from this Autumn 2009 and make an       information to provide access to
 important contribution to improved      deaf people through their dominant       Through the DEAL-TOI project
 language teaching, improved             communication channel. The               a deaf Italian student can learn
 professional training, and improved     project’s aim is to create web-based     written English and BSL by means
 access to employment and mobility       materials (animations, video, and        of LIS, written Italian, or both; a deaf
 for deaf students.                      text) so that a student can use their    British student can learn written
                                         own sign language as a tool for          Spanish and LSC by means of BSL
 The DCAL side of the project is         learning foreign written and sign        and written English, and so on.
 supported by a €€41,762 grant           languages.
 from the European Commission                                                     DEAL-TOI is the successor to the
 within the Leonardo programme           The teaching materials all have          prize-winning first DEAL project that
 and has partners at the British         two main characteristics: visually       ran between 2006 and 2008. DCAL is
 Deaf Association, the University        structured information and               joining the DEAL team for the first time.

 An afternoon of talks was held on
 20 October for BSL interpreters who
 wanted to know more about DCAL’s
 work and the work of interpreters
 within it. Eleven interpreters joined
 DCAL research staff and it’s in-
 house interpreters, to get a clearer
 view of what DCAL’s research is
 all about. Held mainly in BSL, the
 event was followed by a drinks
 reception with poster presentations
 on each of DCAL’s research strands.
 It is hoped that some of those who
 came along will be interested in
 working with DCAL in the future
 and will be able to spread the word
 about the centre’s research whilst
 working in and around London. To
 find out more about interpreting at
 DCAL contact: dcalinterpreters@

 Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre
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         esearch to find out what
         deaf and hard of hearing
         people know about genetic
 counselling, what they want from
 genetics services and what they
 feel the barriers are to accessing
 services, was the subject of a
 seminar on 8 October 2009. The
 seminar took place in the DCAL
 library and was hosted by DCAL’s
 Director Professor Bencie Woll.

 The speaker was Dr Anna
 Middleton, Consultant Research
 Genetic Counsellor and Principal
 Investigator, Cardiff University,
 with her presentation titled “They
 just take these genes and fix ‘em

 Deaf and hard of hearing adults are often
 interested to know why they are deaf
 and whether deafness can be passed on
 to their children                                                                                      Dr Anna Middleton

 together and create a fake human”.      interested in knowing about other       counselling was before they read
 The title was a direct quotation        things that run in their family, e.g.   the study questionnaire, while 80%
 from one of around a thousand           inherited cancer. Such issues are       of people who took part said they
 deaf people who have contributed        routinely discussed in ‘genetic         did not know how to get a referral
 to research on attitudes to genetic     counselling’ provided by the Clinical   for genetic counselling. Participants
 counselling via questionnaires          Genetics services in the NHS.           also highlighted communication
 in British Deaf News, as well as        However less than 1% of deaf and        difficulties with their GP.
 some 30 interviews, all of these        hard of hearing adults ask to be
 held in British Sign Language           referred for genetic counselling or     Other issues raised were
 (BSL). The project was carried out      use this clinical service.              assumptions about inheritance,
 with colleagues from Heriot-Watt                                                mistaken beliefs of a link between
 University, Cambridge University        Dr Middleton’s presentation at DCAL     present-day genetics services and
 and UCL’s Institute for Child Health.   focused on the in-depth interviews      eugenic practices of the past in
                                         with 30 adults and highlighted the      relation to deafness, or fears about
 The research has its foundation         many complex reasons why so few         being told not to have children.
 in the fact that deaf and hard of       d/Deaf adults access counselling
 hearing adults are often interested     services. A main barrier was a lack     Overall the research revealed
 to know why they are deaf and           of information: 50% of the people       that deaf people have a whole
 whether deafness can be passed on       who took part in the research said      range of attitudes towards
 to their children. They may also be     they didn’t know what genetic           genetic counselling and that
                                                                                                     continued on page 7

 Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre
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 appropriate response from the
 medical profession is essential. Dr     unique recognition for DCAL’s
 Middleton’s presentation included
 recommendations for health
                                         contribution to the deaf community
 professionals across the NHS as well    DCAL has been given particular        recognition for its very different
 for genetics professionals working      recognition as the only academic      starting point – that of researching
 with the deaf community.                body short-listed for the category    language and thought - not only
                                         of Organisational Achievement         from spoken and heard language,
 DCAL’s Professor Bencie Woll            in this year’s Signature awards.      but from the perspective provided
 applauded the research stating:         Signature is a national charity       by deaf people’s communication,
 “ DCAL is delighted to be hosting       that promotes excellence in           and viewing this not in terms of
 this event at a time so soon            communication with deaf and           curing and preventing impairment.
 after the debates on the Human          deafblind people. Their annual        The short-listing acknowledges the
 Fertilisation and Embryology Bill       awards are given in recognition       important practical applications
 which highlighted fears in the          of contributions made to the deaf     of DCAL’s work in the areas of sign
 community. This research has an         community. The winners will be        (and other) language learning,
 important role to play in ensuring      announced in November, but final      social integration and identity,
 improved communication between          winner or not, selected alongside     child development, education and
 the Deaf community and genetic          other organisations including the     health etc., but also highlights
 counsellors.”                           English Deaf Rugby Union and          the way DCAL is helping change
                                         the Northampton Constabulary,         perceptions of Deafness. By
 Readers can request a booklet           the short-listing highlights DCAL’s   moving away from the notion
 containing the full research            unique contribution, focus and        of medical “deafness” DCAL is
 results (including a DVD with           approach.                             enabling a shift of focus from
 a BSL translation) by contacting                                              “disability” to that of a diverse
 Dr Middleton: middletona1@              Key to DCAL’s nomination was          cultural and linguistic group.

 A DATE foR youR DIARy!
 Deaf community event at Social Science
 festival, 20 March 2010.
 DCAL will be putting on a unique event at next year’s
 nationwide “ESRC Festival of Social Science” fortnight.
 DCAL invites all deaf community members, friends
 and colleagues to come along on 20 March to the Sir
 Ambrose Fleming Lecture Theatre at University College
 London for a fascinating, informative and energising       chance to learn more about the research outcomes
 day of talks, hands-on activities and experiments on       and other DCAL work you can get involved in. Evening
 the subject of “The Deaf brain and sign language”.         entertainment includes art and short-film competitions
 Hundreds of deaf people have already taken part in         and signed poetry performances. The time and address
 DCAL’s research on this subject and this is a great        will be posted in early 2010 on:

 Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre
 University College London, 49 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD
 Telephone +44(0)20 7679 8679 Minicom +44(0)20 7679 8693
 fax +44(0)20 7679 8691 Website

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