Deaf studies

A degree in deaf studies means learning a new language, exploring social needs, functions and responses and addressing people from all walks of life. Martin Atherton guides us through this highly specialised course

As someone who took a deaf studies degree and who now works as a member of the deaf studies team at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), I know what it is like on both sides of the desk.

What's it all about then?

It's all about deaf people and teaches things anybody who wants to work with deaf people need to know.

The problem is that not many people know about deaf studies or what it involves. You can't study for a GCSE in deaf studies, and college courses are only just starting to be available. This means that almost everyone who starts deaf studies begins from virtually the same place ­ knowing nothing! This isn't a problem, as the course aims to teach everything students need to know if they want to work with deaf people.

Who can take a deaf studies degree?

Just about anyone, both deaf and hearing. There is certainly no age limit: I was 38 when I began my degree but you can start at 18 or 80! Obviously, you will need to demonstrate your ability to handle the academic work with A levels or equivalent qualifications, but you also need to show your willingness to be open-minded about what you will learn. Many hearing people want to work for deaf people; we teach people how to work with deaf people, a big difference.

We concentrate on deaf people as a cultural group with its own language, not as people who have something missing or who are not "normal". In order to do this, students learn first what it means to be deaf in a hearing world. Learning sign language is compulsory on the course. For those who can already sign when they arrive, we give them the opportunity to improve their skills, right up to interpreter level, either as part of their degree or as post-graduate students.

Other subjects covered on the course include:

  • Changing images of deafness
  • Deafness and social policy
  • Issues in sign language interpreting
  • Deaf history
  • Deaf community and culture
  • Sign linguistics

There is also the opportunity to undertake work placements, both in Britain and abroad, in which students work closely with deaf organisations to further their knowledge and skills.

Where do you end up?

There are many jobs that deaf studies can lead into, although I must stress that having a deaf studies degree is not in itself a qualification for certain types of work. For example, if you want to become a teacher of the deaf or a social worker with deaf people, you would still need further professional qualifications. With or without specific qualifications, you can work in a great number of jobs relating to deafness. Graduates from UCLan are currently working as lecturers in deaf studies courses (me!); as researchers involved in projects with deaf people; as social workers; communication support workers in schools, colleges and universities; sign language interpreters; working in residential homes and for organisations who provide information and support for deaf people; as teachers of the deaf; running support services for deaf students in colleges and schools ­ in fact, in just about any type of work that involves contact with deaf people.

A deaf studies degree gives you a knowledge of deaf people that you can take with you into your working life, and deaf studies degrees from UCLan are highly valued by employers. This is shown by the fact that several of our students have been offered jobs in their final year of study, even before they knew what level of degree they were going to be awarded. Over 90 per cent of deaf studies graduates at UCLan have found work or gone on to further study in the first year after graduating.

How can I find out more?

If you think you might be interested in taking a deaf studies degree but don't know anything about deafness or deaf people, this isn't a problem. Why not contact your local deaf club or one of the national deaf organisations and ask if there is any voluntary work you could be involved in? You can find details in your phone book or from websites such as the Royal National Institute for Deaf People ( www.rnid.org.uk), the British Deaf Association ( www.bda.org.uk) or the National Deaf Children's Society ( www.ndcs.org.uk).

You can get more information about Deaf studies degrees from UCLan ( www.uclan. ac.uk; 01772 201201). Other universities, including Bristol and Wolverhampton, offer courses. Details from UCAS: www.ucas.com.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Surrey - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Croy...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Marketing & Social Media Executive

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a Marketing Graduate or...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer (Trainee) - City, London

£25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A large financial services company...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Services Graduate Training Scheme

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a successful and establ...

SPONSORED FEATURES

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future