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 100 academic publications, her main research interests are: (i) early intervention with deaf children and their families; (ii) improvements in the provision and effectiveness of health and social care services for deaf chidlren and adults across the life span; (iii)  social science research methodologies in the context of signed languages and d/Deaf people.

She currently leads the Social Reserach 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)

Collaborators and affiliated staff

  • Dr Audrey Bowen
  • Professor John Bamford
  • Professor Adrian Davis
  • Professor Linda Davies
  • Dr Katherine Rogers
  • Professor John Keady
  • Professor Karina Lovell
  • Emma Ferguson-Coleman
  • Rosemary Oram
  • Dr Hilary Sutherland
  • Claire Dodds
  • Catherine Nassimi-Green

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

  • HCPC registered social worker
  • FAcSS
  • Senior Fellow of the NIHR School for Social Care Research
  • Executive member of the NSPCC/NDCS Safeguarding Deaf Children group

Methodological knowledge

  • Action Research    
  • Evaluation
  • Qualitative
  • Quantitative
  • Social science reserach methodologies and method in the context of sign language users


I am Professor of Social Work Education and Research  within the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work.

I am also the director of SORD - the Social Reseach with Deaf People programme

I am a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS)

I also currently hold the role of Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Centre for Deaf Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.


  • PhD in Deaf Studies, 1995,  University of Bristol (Centre for Deaf Studies)
  • MSc in Applied Social Studies, 1989, University of Oxford
  • BA Hons. in English Literature, 1986, University of Cambridge (King's College)
  • CQSW, 1989, University of Oxford

Research interests

My research primarily concerns deaf children and families; health and social care services and organisational research concering d/Deaf people over the life course; social science research methodologies in the context of signed languages and the intersection of being Deaf and disability.   My research programme (SORD:  Social Research with Deaf People) is a research group within the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work.  I enjoy an international reputation for the quality and relevance of my work to both service improvement and theoretical innovation in applied social research in this specialist field.

Deaf Children and Families

Work focuses on understanding better the diversity of hearing family contexts in which services seek to intervene and deaf children seek to develop. This is a rapidly changing situation in light of very early identification of deafness, growth in cochlear implantation and greater recognition of Sign Language. 

Current projects include:

  • a qualitative study of families with a deaf child with autism, funded by MRC as part of a larger study led by the National Deaf Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service into better screening and assessment instruments for deaf children with autism.
  • a longitudinal study of 600 deaf babies under 5 in South Africa focussing on profiling children, families and available services against outcomes and development. (Main collaborator - Professor Claudine Storbeck and the Hi Hopes service based in Johannesburg)
  • A study of parent-defined outcomes for deaf children (an ESRC Funded PhD project - student Jane Russell)

Recently completed projects include:

  • a study of best practice in Further Education for deaf young people (funded by NDCS)
  • an evaluation of the NSPCC 'SAFE' programme for deaf children (funded by NDCS)


Health and Social Care Research Concerning d/Deaf people

Work focusses on both the impact of Deafness and d/Deaf people on the provision of services and the impact of services on d/Deaf people. 

Current projects include:

  • the development of a life-story tool for Deaf people with dementia (funded by NIHR/ESRC)
  • the dissemination of key findings to service providers and the Deaf community of a recent project exploring the barriers to early identification of dementia amongst Deaf people (both projects funded by the Alzheimer's Society)
  • a study of the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of IAPT delivered directly in BSL by Deaf people in comparison with Deaf people accessing usual care (mainstream IAPT) with reasonable adjustments (funded by NIHR)
  • a study exploring quality standards in interpreting and translation provision for Deaf people accessing primary care (funded by NHS England)


Methodologies and method in the context of signed languages

Social research involving d/Deaf people  inevitably involves encountering a huge diversity of language use and preference that is closely linked to identity and culture. Data are routinely collected in multiple languages (English, BSL), multiple modalities (visual, orthographic, spoken) and by both Deaf and hearing researchers who themselves have a diversity of language use. Theoretical work in this field has centred on the implications for validity and epistemology in qualitative work of this diversity; and issues of translation in the development research instruments. A co-authored text on social science research and d/Deaf people is published by Oxford in 2014.



Social responsibility

I sit on the NSPCC/NDCS national safeguarding deaf and disabled chidlren board.  Deaf and disabled children can be particularly vulnerable to abuse with far grearer incidence of abuse recorded in their lives.  This board oversees a rane of specialist actions designed to promote a better safeguarding.

I participate in the 'Ethical grand challenge' activites associated with social responsibility and the undergraduate eduction curriculum.

Our research group SORD regularly provides community outreach activities to the local and national Deaf community to promote better understanding of our research and to increase community particiation in its goals and objectives.  Most of our research work is also summarised in BSL for a lay populaiton and made freely available via the SORD web site (www,  We also produce a quarterly newsletter about our activities in plain language that is well received by diverse subscribers.


I enjoy teaching a wide range of students and topics associated with social work, social care and social research methodologies/methods.  This means I mainly teach on the MA Social Work Programme, supervising student dissertations, the MRes in Health and Social Care on the Foundations of Research course unit and dissertation supervision as well as having several PhD students.  I supervise students in either English or BSL.

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