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SIGNSPACE project launch: An online portal for multilingual signers

27 February, 2017

We are excited to announce the launch of our new project, entitled ‘Multilingual work spaces for sign language users: An online portal driving social innovation’ (SIGNSPACE), funded by the European Research Council (ERC) as a follow-up to ‘Multilingual behaviour in sign language users’ (MULTISIGN). Our MULTISIGN team found that signers have impressive abilities to communicate across language boundaries. As a ‘Proof of Concept’ project, SIGNSPACE gives signers the chance to exploit and increase this ability by translating MULTISIGN findings into an innovative and practical online portal for transnational signed communication.


Some of our MULTISIGN project team members


The portal will feature activities to help signers build meta-linguistic awareness, use sign languages bilingually and multilingually, and interact remotely with people who use different sign languages, with an integrated tool for sign-to-sign-translation. The idea for the portal was developed based on the views of 63 deaf people, from 25 different countries, in their responses to our online survey presented in International Sign.

Prof Ulrike Zeshan, principal investigator for SIGNSPACE, commented: “Our portal will especially benefit deaf communities who have had few opportunities for international contact in the past. They’ll be able to converse with experienced international deaf colleagues, draw from their knowledge, share resources and strengthen their capacity for activism, for example to lobby their local government bodies for access to education and sign language recognition”.

SIGNSPACE is an 18-month collaboration between UCLan’s iSLanDS and an award-winning Hungarian company, Dolphio Technologies. Together, we will create the portal; hold demonstration and training workshops in India, Indonesia, Jordan, Hungary and the UK. We are grateful to all of our MULTISIGN participants and research team, survey respondents, academic and business partners, the ERC, and everyone else who has contributed to the formation and launch of this innovative project.


Our 10-year anniversary: Thank you

6 February, 2017

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our 10-year anniversary event last week at UCLan, celebrating a decade of working with disadvantaged deaf communities in the Global South to improve their access to communication, education, research, and employment.


We are grateful to our many presenters and participants for making this event so inspiring and memorable.


Dr Jun Hui Yang presents at our 10-year anniversary event on 1st February 2017

Our research fellow Dr Nick Palfreyman presented on the work of our research hubs in Indonesia and India, and conveyed our plans for launching new international hubs in the near future. He said: “It is a great privilege to be part of iSLanDS for many reasons, including its commitment to applying sign language research creatively, making a positive difference to the lives of deaf people around the world. We’d like to thank everyone who has contributed our work over the past 10 years, and we look forward to the next decade of our journey as a pioneering research institute”.


Sibaji Panda talks about the iSLanDS Institute’s work in India

Keiko Sagara talked about her work and studies here at iSLanDS, and about her current project at the National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) in Osaka, Japan, which established a Sign Language Linguistics Research Section last year. She added: “I now do research on historical sign linguistics at Minpaku with my own project on sign language varieties in Japan and Taiwan. I also initiated a monthly research group hosted at Kwansei Gakuin University, modelled on the postgraduate study group at iSLanDS, where deaf and hearing people from several universities can come together and discuss sign language research”.


Keiko Sagara gives a video presentation from Japan

Our director, Prof Ulrike Zeshan OBE, commented that the past 10 years have allowed iSLanDS to consolidate its identity and work portfolio as a deaf-centric international institute with a unique network of partners, associates, and deaf-led research hubs. She said: “We’re very proud of the many successes and impacts that our staff, students, and partners have achieved, and we deeply appreciate everyone who has worked with us over the years”.

To mark our anniversary, we are compiling a “video stories” project throughout 2017, featuring the success stories of our members around the world. We will post more details about this project here soon.


Prof Zeshan launches our 10-year anniversary “video stories” project


iSLanDS Seminar Series 2017

30 January, 2017

We are delighted to announce the sessions for our 2017 iSLanDS Seminar Series at UCLan and invite you to join us for a range of fascinating talks on the most recent research in relation to sign languages and deaf communities. Please see our announcement here and contact if you would like further details. We look forward to welcoming you to our discussions on the latest findings and innovations in these exciting areas of study.


SIGN8 conference in Brazil in October 2017

29 January, 2017

We are very pleased to announce that the SIGN8 conference will take place in Brazil at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC) on 25-27 October 2017.

UFSC is located in Florianopolis and is home to a well-known sign language programme. We are delighted that we can bring the SIGN conference to South America for the first time, and are grateful to the Brazilian team for their bid to host SIGN8.

This is an advance announcement, and a Call for Papers with further details will be issued asap.


Our 10-year anniversary: 1st Feb in Preston

23 January, 2017

We are delighted to invite all of our friends and colleagues to the 10-year anniversary of iSLanDS on Wednesday 1st February at 4-6pm at the UCLan campus in Greenbank Lecture Theatre. Over the past ten years, we have consolidated our identity and work portfolio as a deaf-friendly international institute with a unique network of partners, associates, and deaf-led research hubs in countries of the Global South. We will be celebrating our many successes and milestones of the last 10 years with international guests from South Korea and Uganda, UCLan colleagues, and UK-based colleagues. We will also be launching our “10th anniversary video stories” project. 

We are not able to reimburse travel expenses but need to estimate the number of participants for catering purposes at this limited-capacity event, so if you would like to join us, please confirm by emailing We look forward to seeing you at our celebration.

iSLanDs logo

Our former study visitor meets with EU leaders at Brussels conference on sign language recognition

19 January, 2017


We are pleased to share that our former visiting research student has met with leaders in Brussels to push for greater recognition of sign languages in the EU. As a member of the Japanese Federation of the Deaf’s Welfare and Labor Committee, our study visitor Makoto Iwayama (second from right) represented Japan with JFD leaders in late September for a conference in the Hemicycle of the European Parliament entitled ‘Multilingualism and equal rights in the EU: the role of sign languages’. They met with Adam Cosa MEP, as well as Mark Wheatley, executive director of the European Union of the Deaf. Mr Iwayama said:

“These meetings helped us to understand the current progress being made toward the recognition of sign languages in EU member states. The experience has had a useful influence on us and on the Japanese deaf community.”

Congratulations to Mr Iwayama and the JFD for a successful delegation to this exciting conference.



UCLan’s Kaleidoscope showcases our research

28 November, 2016

We were delighted to showcase our work last week at an event celebrating the best of UCLan’s ideas and innovations. This exciting event, Kaleidoscope, was held on 17 November and attracted local dignitaries, partners, and other friends of UCLan.

Our research fellow Nick Palfreyman and technician Phil Howarth were on hand to show how the research we conduct makes a difference to the lives of deaf children and adults in the Global South. The stand included information on our work on literacy and education in India, and how our research is being applied in Indonesia to improve access to information through sign language.

UCLan VC Mike Thomas said: “I was extremely impressed with the quality of projects and how engaging all the staff working at the event were. Over the past week we have received many comments on how the event was useful to those who attended and the innovative ideas and products on display.”

Thanks to everyone involved in the event for this great opportunity to share our research.