Deaf researcher improving the lives of Deaf people living with dementia

The first Deaf sign language user in the world to interview Deaf people living with dementia about their care and support experiences and needs has graduated with a PhD from The University of Manchester.

Dr. Emma Ferguson-Coleman has been working on the ‘Deaf with Dementia’ project, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, since 2010.

Her PhD involved interviewing Deaf people with dementia - and their primary carers - in British Sign Language, and produced first-hand testimony of their lives and experiences. This information is instrumental in influencing future care and support practices for this cultural and linguistic minority community.

Emma is now working to develop a revolutionary ‘life story’ app, which uses photos and videos to support Deaf people living with dementia to share their historical and cultural reference points, reinforce their proud Deaf identities and to improve connections with their primary carers within community and residential unit environments.

The app utilises archived video and photographic materials from the British Deaf Association dating from the 1930’s onwards.

This is part of the ESRC NIHR-funded ‘Neighbourhoods and Dementia’ study, for which a team of experts are exploring, investigating and evaluating the role of neighbourhoods in the everyday lives of people with dementia and their families. The Manchester-led project is the first large-scale research programme to work alongside people with dementia and their families in a variety of roles from advisers to co-researchers.

I have thoroughly relished the opportunity to study for a PhD at the University of Manchester, particularly with the unstinting support of my two supervisors, Professor Young and Professor Keady. This environment has enabled me to achieve a qualification which has surpassed all my expectations, especially as a Deaf BSL user. 
Dr. Emma Ferguson-Coleman

“I am delighted to remain as a member of the excellent Social Research with Deaf People (SORD) team. All of the members of the team and I look forward to encouraging more potential PhD students who are also Deaf BSL users to join our research team to achieve more success.”

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