Professor Alys Young

Co-lead of SORD Research Group.
Professor of Social Work, Education & Research.

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Following her BA Hons. in English Literature from King’s College, Cambridge (1986), Alys worked as a residential social work assistant. She qualified as a social worker in 1989 with a MSc in Applied Social Studies and a CQSW from Oxford University. She went on to work for Cambridgeshire Social Services as a community mental health social worker, ASW, generic social worker and specialist social worker with Deaf people. She gained her PhD in 1995 from the Centre for Deaf Studies, University of Bristol, on the impact on hearing familes of sign bilingual approaches to early intervention, carrying out her fieldwork in both BSL (British Sign Langauge) and English.

Author of over 150 academic publications, her main research interests are:

  • early intervention with deaf children and their families;
  • improvements in the provision and effectiveness of health and social care services for deaf children and adults across the life span;
  • social science research methodologies in the context of signed languages and d/Deaf people.

She currently leads the Social Research with Deaf People group (SORD) which comprises a multidisciplinary, bilingual group of Deaf and hearing researchers working on a range of applied social research projects connected with family, service and community contexts which involve Deaf people.

Formerly international visiting scholar at the National Technical Insititute for Deaf People, RIT, USA and visiting professor University of British Columbia, Canada, she is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Centre for Deaf Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

Alys is a Senior Fellow of the NIHR School for Social Care Research. In 2015 was conferred FAcSS (Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences) for her contributions to social work and social research with Deaf people(s).

In 2016 she won the Times Higher Education Award for Outstanding Research Supervisor of the Year.

Dr Katherine Rogers

Co-lead of SORD Research Group.
NIHR Post-Doctoral Fellow.

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Dr Katherine Rogers, PhD., MRes., BSc (Hons.), has been involved in the Social Research with Deaf people (SORD) group at the University of Manchester since 2006. She completed a Doctoral Research Fellowship, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, in 2013. Her research interests primarily involve issues pertaining to Deaf communities and their families, especially those which promote more positive outcomes. She is also concerned with methodological issues which arise in research with d/Deaf people, and one of her specialist areas includes the translation, validation and testing of standardised assessments in signed languages.

Her research work has had a direct impact on primary mental health services for Deaf people. There are now standardised mental health assessments that are linguistically accessible and culturally appropriate for Deaf people ensuring better diagnosis, access to treatment and accurate monitoring of outcomes.

In the field of teaching, she has contributed specialist components to degree courses in audiology, social work, deaf education, midwifery and qualitative sessions for foundation of research.

Examples of previous Research Project(s) that she has worked on include:

  • Independent Evaluation of NDCS’s Deaf Role Model Project;
  • Deaf people and mental well-being: Exploring and measuring mental well-being in British Sign Language;
  • Evaluating the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of British Sign Language (BSL) Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT); and
  • Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS) in British Sign Language (BSL) (Principal Investigator).

She is currently an NIHR Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the field of Deaf mental health and health related outcomes for Deaf people who use a signed language.

Claire Dodds

Postgraduate research student.

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Ms Claire Dodds has been a member of the SORD research team since 2015. Initially, she worked within the team as a Research Assistant. She is now a PhD student, studying part-time. Her first degree is from the University of Oxford. When she graduated, she left the UK and travelled the world.

Claire became interested in Deaf people and sign language when I took a job at a Deaf School in New Zealand. When she returned to the UK, she made the decision to train as a BSL/English interpreter (qualified in 2004). As an interpreter, she specialised in Higher Education settings for a number of year, before eventually feeling drawn back to the idea of working in academia herself.

She applied for a Research Assistant post with SORD in 2015 and since then has been involved in a number of different projects and consultations. In 2018 she was awarded a Master of Research degree in Health and Social Care, and was fortunate enough to secure a PhD studentship, funded by the National Deaf Children’s Society.

Her PhD forms part of the READY study (Recording Emerging Adulthood in Deaf Youth). Her particular area of interest concerns the social networks of deaf young people, and how communication and understanding influence network development and change. Her supervisors are Professor Alys Young, Professor Garry Squires and Dr Emma Ferguson-Coleman.

Francisco Espinoza

Research Assistant

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Mr Francisco Espinoza is a sociologist, holds a master in Political Science and is also a postgraduate researcher in Politics at The University of Manchester. He has worked with the SORD team since 2018, when he joined to support the IT area. Currently, he is mainly involved with The READY Study, a five-year longitudinal project among deaf young people in the UK, for which he has developed the digital platform for data collection and quantitative data analysis.

Dr Emma Ferguson-Coleman

Post-doctoral research associate.

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Dr Emma Ferguson-Coleman works as a post-doctoral research associate. She has worked within SORD since 2010 and her primary research domain is focused on Deaf people living with dementia and their carers. Her PhD research was completed in 2016, which focused on the lived experience of Deaf people with dementia and their families in accessing timely diagnosis and subsequent support.

She worked with the Deaf with Dementia Project funded by Alzheimer’s Society from 2010 onward exploring what Deaf people know about dementia and also the lived experiences of Deaf people with dementia and their families reaching a diagnosis and then support afterwards. Dr Ferguson-Coleman worked as a researcher for the Deaf with Dementia Life-Stories Project between 2014 and 2019 funded by ESRC/NIHR as part of the Neighbourhoods and Dementia study, where the team explored cultural storytelling practices within the Deaf community and how these could influence life story work principles for Deaf people with dementia and their carers.

She has been awarded a junior fellowship with Alzheimer’s Society which will focus on developing tailor-made culturally appropriate support structures for Deaf carers of both hearing and Deaf parents who are living with dementia. For many year, she has worked in the field of mental health and deafness; primarily as an independent mental health advocate within inpatient and forensic settings.

Dr Celia Hulme

NIHR Three Schools Research Associate and NMSW PPIE Co-Lead

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Dr Celia Hulme is a Deaf researcher who joined SORD team in 2017, and her main research interests are:

  • Health research relating to Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users
  • Improving access and patient experiences for Deaf BSL users
  • Patient Public Involvement (PPI) in health research

Her current PhD research relates to Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users’ experiences of adult hearing aid services. The purpose of this research study is to collect information from Deaf BSL users about their experiences of hearing aid services and their use of hearing aids. This research will also identify and explore how hearing aid clinics address cultural competency specifically to Deaf BSL users. The information will be used to find out about how and why Deaf BSL users access hearing aid services; experiences of communication with audiology staff; how they perceive audiology staff attitudes, examples of good practice, and patient satisfaction. The findings from this research may have an impact on future audiology provision, audiology training and service access for Deaf BSL users.

She also works in partnership with the Public Programmes Team to provide a Deaf Expert by Experience Group (DEEG) Panel. In there, Deaf signers are trained to be panel members and the panel has been providing advice to health researchers who wish to include Deaf BSL users in their research but do not know how to.

Dr Cristián Iturriaga

PhD in Education

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Dr Cristián Iturriaga’s background is in psychology and holds a master in educational psychology. His main interests involve:

  • learning processes of deaf students,
  • qualitative research methods, and
  • sociocultural learning theory.

In 2017, he started a PhD in education at the University of Manchester, and is also a member of SORD research group at the same university.

His PhD thesis is about the learning experiences of deaf college students, where he explores their translanguaging practices; that is, how do they mix written English, spoken English, British Sign Language, gestures and finger-spelling for communication and understanding purposes.

Rosemary Oram

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) PhD Student.

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Mrs Rosemary Oram has been with the SORD group since 2008 and is now a third-year PhD student (part-time) at this university. Her case studentship award is funded by the Economic Social Research Council (ESRC). With a professional background which comprises both social work and research, she has worked on several projects including research about deaf children in social care, education for young deaf children, as well as older deaf people considering care options. In addition, Rosie has carried out a number of consultations with deaf organisations.

Rosie is being supervised by Professor Alys Young and Doctor Patricia Cartney, both from the Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work. In partnership with Manchester City Council, the study will involve the exploration of parenting assessments in relation to safeguarding in instances when one or more parent is a Deaf BSL (British Sign Language) user. This is an important recognition of the significance of cultural competence in assessments involving Deaf parents who are more readily regarded as disabled rather than as minority language users from an identified cultural community.

Molly Redpath-Healy

Research Assistant.

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Molly Redpath-Healy holds a degree in Psychology. She is currently working towards the end of her master’s degree in Health Psychology. Some of her interests include public health and research methods. Molly began with SORD as a research intern for the READY study in June 2022. Molly went on to join the SORD team as a Research Assistant in August 2022 for the Deaf Cancer Support Project Evaluation team.

Dr Jane Russell


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Dr Jane Russell joined SORD in 2012 as a part time PhD student and her research area is deaf children and families. She graduated from the University of Birmingham in 1986 with a degree in business and then, in her professional life, she joined the aerospace industry which she left when her triplets were born. Her first child was identified as deaf aged 8 weeks old; the second has had fluctuating hearing and the third is hearing. She chose to study for a PhD due to her interests in why her maternal experience in raising their deaf child differed from the other two children.

Before joining SORD, she worked part time on the Blackpool Early Support project; then she undertook a Graduate Diploma in Deaf Studies graduate diploma at UCLAN at Preston. Seventeen years ago, she became involved in the Local NDCS Group, a parent support group. Being a committee member, they changed the name to “Sign Hi Say Hi!”. Every fortnight, the group organised activities for deaf children, parents, brother and sisters and grandparents; everybody could come. She stepped down from SHSH and is now involved in the Global Coalition with Parents whose children are Deaf/hard of hearing (GPODHH), an informal coalition of parent leaders who support each other and other parents raising deaf children.

Jane chose to study in SORD because she wanted to work in a team with deaf and hearing researchers. She hopes to improve her BSL after submitting her thesis. Her research interests are in knowledge exchange, the development of parent knowledges, and knowledge transfer.

Robyn Swannack

PhD Student, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

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Ms. Robyn Swannack is a PhD student at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her PhD is being jointly supervised by SORD at the University of Manchester. She holds a master’s degree in Social Sciences specializing in Anthropology and her research background includes healthcare and accessibility in the Deaf community in South Africa. Robyn’s PhD focuses on well-being.

Tiffany Wade

Research fellow.

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Ms Tiffany Wade has worked in health research and education for over 10 years and joined SORD in September 2022 as a pre-doctoral research fellow funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). As part of her fellowship she will:

  • investigate how visual and arts-based research methods can be incorporated within community mental health interventions for d/Deaf young people;
  • shadow research leads to learn more about mixed methods research approaches (for example, visual and qualitative research methods);
  • learn more about current mental health provisions for d/Deaf young people via non-clinical shadowing placements within mental health services

The aim of this fellowship is to publish a research paper and to submit a PhD application to NIHR.

Jackie Wan Brown

NIHR pre-doctoral academic fellow.

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Mrs Jackie Wan Brown has been a mental health nurse for 14 years, working in London, with deaf people. She undertook a BSc primarily to learn new skills as a nurse practitioner, which included a module on research, which piqued her interest. She decided to pursue this further and was awarded a Fulbright and British Schools and Universities Foundation scholarship, which enabled her to complete a Masters’ degree at the University of Rochester, New York, USA. Currently she is a pre-doctoral clinical academic fellow funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR); she will shadow clinicians such as psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and OTs in their work, and also shadow researchers and learn more about the research process. The aim of this fellowship year is to submit a PhD application to NIHR.

Affiliated staff

  • Professor Claudine Storbeck. Director of the Centre for Deaf Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Former staff

  • Dr Goedele de Clerck
  • Dr Maria Gascon Ramos
  • Catherine Nassimi Green
  • Paul Scott

Former research students

  • Dr Ros Hunt. PhD thesis: “The Early Support Monitoring Profile for Deaf Children: an Evaluation in Practice”, funded by ESRC, 2008.
  • Dr Hilary Sutherland. PhD thesis “Sign Bilingualism Through the Eyes of a Child”, 2009.
  • Dr Tracey Raistrick. PhD thesis “An Insider Evaluation of the Translation Process in use in the BSL Bible Translation Project: Explorations in Textuality, Intermediality and Sacrament”, funded by AHRC/ESRC, 2014.
  • Rachel Belk. MPhil project “The development of an online tool to facilitate collection of video data in British Sign Language (BSL): principles, process and implications for Deaf people’s engagement with research and service development”, funded by NIHR, 2018.

Former interns

  • Luke Holdsworth
  • Rita Giacoppo
  • Khadija Grierson
Rita Giacoppo - See more

Research Assistant Intern

Rita Giacoppo holds a master degree in Psychology. In particular, she is interested in the development of deaf young people and her background has mainly been focused on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, developmental Psychology, and learning disabilities. She was a member of the SORD team research group since May 2019 until May 2020 as an Intern Research Assistant. She has experience of working with children, teenagers and young adults with special needs, in particular supporting deaf students in school settings.

Khadija Grierson - See more

InternKhadija Grierson

Khadija is a rising third year BSc psychology student at the University of Manchester. Her near goal is to do as master’s in clinical psychology at Manchester, and she has a particular interest in (cultural) inequalities in mental health care. For the 2021-2021 academic year she was in New Jersey, US studying at Rutgers University alongside doing an internship with the Juvenile Justice Commission, NJ. She is currently involved with the SORD team and the READY Study at the University of Manchester, in various areas including social media and survey programming.