Alys Young

Alys Young, PhD., FAcSS.,MSc Oxon., MA Cantab., CQSW


Personal profile


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

I am also the founder and co-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.

I am a Senior Fellow of the NIHR School for Social Care Research.



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 150 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 lco-eads 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)

In 2016 she won the Times Higher Education Award for Outstanding Research Supervisor of the Year

In 2022 she was named in the Shaw Trust Disdabilty Power 100 list of the most influential disabled peopel in the UK as a Judge's Choice:





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 Division 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:

Recently completed 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 best practice in Further Education for deaf young people (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. 

Recent 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.

"Translating the Deaf Self" is a recently completed project with colleagues at Heriot Watt University and funded by the AHRC under their Translating Cultures Theme.  

Two projects funded by AHRC/MRC global challenges have explored through film and photography resilience amongst Deaf childrne in South Africa.




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.

My collaborations

  • Dr Audrey Bowen
  • Professor John Bamford
  • Professor Adrian Davis
  • Professor Linda Davies
  • Dr Katherine Rogers
  • Professor John Keady
  • Professor Karina Lovell
  • Dr Emma Ferguson-Coleman
  • Rosemary Oram
  • Dr Hilary Sutherland
  • Claire Dodds
  • Catherine Nassimi-Green
  • Dr Goedele DeClerck
  • Gemma Shields
  • Dr Celia Hulme
  • Dr Cristian Iturriaga
  • Francisco Espinoza
  • Dr Rebecca Tipton

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

  • SWE registered social worker
  • FAcSS
  • Senior Fellow of the NIHR School for Social Care Research

Methodological knowledge

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


  • 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

Social responsibility


Between 2019 and 2022 I was the University of Manchester Academic Lead for Disability Equality.

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.  

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Social Science, Family adjustment to a deaf child in a bilingual/bicultural framework, University of Bristol

1 Sept 19921 Oct 1995

Award Date: 1 Dec 1995

Master of Social Science, Applied Social Studies, Oxford University

30 Sept 198731 Aug 1989

Award Date: 15 Jul 1989

Bachelor of Arts, University of Cambridge

30 Sept 198631 Jul 1989

Award Date: 1 Jul 1986

External positions

Visiting Professor, University of British Columbia


Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

2005 → …

Visiting International Scholar, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology

Sept 2000Dec 2000

Areas of expertise

  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • Deaf studies
  • Sign language

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Creative Manchester
  • Global inequalities
  • Healthier Futures


  • deaf
  • sign language
  • social work


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