Members of the Deaf community, along with friends, family and colleagues, were out in force on 11th February at a glittering awards ceremony, held to mark the 175th anniversary of the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD).
More than 370 nominees, sponsors, RAD employees and guests gathered at The Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Place, London, to celebrate Deaf history, language and culture – and applaud some of the community’s most upstanding figures, with nine categories of awards being presented by actress, comedian and author Helen Lederer.
The award for Best Deaf business went to Signworld, for its work supporting both learners and teachers of British Sign Language (BSL) with a dedicated website – which demonstrates the various regional variations of BSL, not only resulting in benefits to those teaching and learning it, but also helping to record and preserve the language. In addition, Hear First Training and Consultancy, and Flashing Lights were highly commended.
Jackie Wan, a profoundly Deaf BSL user and qualified Psychiatric Nurse, was named Best Deaf role model, for her professionalism and dedication as part of the Deaf Adult Community Team (DACT), working alongside local mental health teams. Highly commended were Dr Sarah Powell, and Alric Marasek, who also received a special commendation for his positive attitude.
Best employer of Deaf people was awarded to Living Options Devon, a user-led organisation which ensures that disabled and Deaf people are empowered to live the lives they choose – 80% of the organisation’s Trustees and volunteers, and over 50% of its staff, are disabled or Deaf. Also highly commended were City Lit and SignHealth.
The award for Most accessible mainstream services went to the London Borough of Islington, where the Council has been proactive in ensuring that the diverse needs of its Deaf residents have been identified and met within both mainstream and specialist services. In addition, the HMRC Customer and Stakeholder team, Team Marlborough Court and UK Power Networks were all highly commended.
Lilian Lawson, one of the UK’s leading Deaf campaigners, was named the winner of Most outstanding contribution made to the Deaf community. In 2005, Lilian was the first Deaf person in Scotland to achieve the OBE, and she was also instrumental in achieving legal recognition for BSL in Scotland, which occurred with the passing of the BSL Bill in 2015. In addition, Dr Barry Wright and Dr Terry Riley were highly commended.
Most innovative Deaf Club was awarded to Medway Deaf Club, for their diverse programme of activities, growing membership, and forward-thinking approach – their 125 members can not only enjoy weekly social meetings, but events ranging from comedy nights to bingo, pool matches, and a week-long club holiday. Also highly commended were St Johns Deaf Club, who received a special commendation for their diverse activities, and Romford Deaf Seniors Lunch Club.
The award for the Most significant research contribution to Deaf studies was won by the Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre, for its research into the relationship between language, executive function and wellbeing in the aging Deaf community, including whether an earlier age of BSL acquisition impacts on an individual’s ability to plan, be flexible in problem solving, or inhibit responses when necessary. SignHealth received a special commendation for their Sick Of It study, while the Social Research with Deaf People BSL IAPT Project Team was also highly commended.
The Deaf Museum and Archive Curatorial Team took home the accolade for the Preservation of Deaf history and culture, for their dedication to enlightening visitors about Deaf History at The Deaf Museum and Archive – the only one of its kind in the UK. The British Deaf Association (BDA) and Peter Brown, of City Lit, were also highly commended.
Hotly contested by three very upstanding contenders, The young person award went to Ashley Kendall, for his commitment and dedication to the Deaf community. Ashley may be best known by the wider public for his role presenting CBeebies’ Magic Hands, but his work on a variety of projects, forums and workshops, as well as his place of the board of the British Deaf Association, has inspired many young Deaf adults to become more independent, confident and optimistic. Highly commended were Finlay Maciver, who received a special commendation for his positive attitude, and Ellen Parfitt, who received a special commendation for her amazing achievements in education, sport and her career.
“We’re delighted to have enjoyed such a wonderful celebration of Deaf language, culture and history to mark our 175th anniversary year,” said Toby Burton, Chair of the Board of Trustees, RAD. “We received so many nominations for the RAD Birthday Honours Awards, and all our shortlisted nominees should be very proud of their achievements in making it through the verification process, as it was certainly rigorous, and the competition was fierce – they’re all winners.”
“We’re very much indebted to all the organisations and individuals who helped make the event such a success,” added Dr Jan Sheldon, Chief Executive, RAD. “and also our performers and speakers, including Deaf musician Ruth Montgomery, Whybrows CEO Ewan Dodds, City & Country Managing Director Helen Moore, the inimitable Helen Lederer, Ali and Klodi Acrobats, and Bond Street, whose music rounded off the evening.”