Robert Adam sits on the BDA's Board of Trustees since March 2016.


PROFILE:

Robert Adam is Director of Continuing Professional Development at DCAL where he coordinates both short courses and academic modules (including BSL, Deafhood and translation courses) that are available through DCAL.

Robert has undertaken a large amount of research into sign language throughout his career. His doctoral research examined unimodal bilingualism where language contact exists between different sign languages. He also documented Australian Irish Sign Language (AISL) in 2016 and developed a web resource for AISL signers and their families.

A Deaf native signer, Robert is also Vice Chair of Governors at Frank Barnes School and Co-ordinator of the World Federation of the Deaf Expert Group on Sign Language and Deaf Studies.

WHAT ARE YOUR EARLIEST MEMORIES OF THE BDA?:

I am from Melbourne in Australia and I remember growing up reading British Deaf News and being very interested in the campaigning that the BDA was involved with, and reading the news and updates from all those Deaf clubs up and down the UK. I especially remember the BDA’s Education Manifesto produced many years ago which was very powerful reading. The Australian Association of the Deaf was established in 1986 and so our British cousins provided us with some of the inspiration to be able to move forward and become a dynamic organisation. I have been a member of the BDA ever since I arrived in the UK in 2003.

WHAT EXCITES YOU ABOUT YOUR NEW ROLE WITH THE BDA?:

I believe I can contribute to the BDA continuing to be a dynamic and relevant organisation for the British Deaf community. We have a number of interesting challenges at the moment. Deaf children do not always have access to British Sign Language, BSL teaching is becoming more and more difficult (because of funding and because BSL teachers work on their own) and the rights of Deaf people (along with people with disabilities) are being wound back. The BDA has a long and distinguished history and I hope to be able to contribute to the work that the BDA does.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU CAN BRING TO THE BOARD OF THE BDA?:

I am a Deaf person from a Deaf family and also an academic so I believe that I bring to the BDA both a lived experience of being a Deaf person who uses sign language and my knowledge as an academic. I was also a Board member of the Australian Association of the Deaf for 15 years, and President during the last 3. I also represented Australia at a few World Federation of the Deaf Congresses. In fact, I first met Terry Riley, BDA Chair, in Tokyo in 1991, 25 years ago! I am also Coordinator of the Sign Language and Deaf Studies Expert Group for the World Federation of the Deaf, as well as Vice Chair of Governors at Frank Barnes School, and I feel that my these contacts and experience will contribute to my role at the BDA, both as a Deaf person and as someone with experience in strategic planning and representation of the Deaf community. 

HOW DO YOU SEE THE BDA EVOLVING OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS?

It is becoming more and more important for the BDA to lobby for and to ensure the linguistic human rights of Deaf people in the UK. It is important for the BDA to continue to be a reference point for the British Deaf Community, as well as a strong and dynamic lobbying organisation, who the British Government in the years to come will refer and defer to for expertise on sign language and Deaf culture. We have more work to do before our rights as a language minority are assured in law. For me, it is not a question of how many Deaf people there are in the UK, but that any language minority group including the Deaf community has linguistic human rights.

 


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