Skip to content

UNESCO post for our PhD student Rita Huhua Fan

17 May, 2017

Many congratulations to our PhD student, Rita Huhua Fan, on the commencement of her prestigious post at UNESCO in Paris. Working in UNESCO’s Education Sector, she is focussing on how ICT is used, monitored and evaluated in education. Her role, entitled Associate Project Officer at the ICT in Education Unit, involves coordinating the Leveraging ICT to Achieve Education 2030 project and its related publications.


As a PhD student working on our deaf literacy project, she is currently writing a thesis with the working title, ‘A developmental evaluation of an e-learning ecosystem for Deaf adult learners’ English literacy attainment in India’, and plans to submit in 2018. She said that her learning at iSLanDS during her doctoral studies and through her publication work has been very useful in paving the way for this exciting post at UNESCO. She commented:

‘Having worked in the field of education for several years with a recent shift to digital education, this role at the ICT in Education Unit at UNESCO is ideal for me. It is quite challenging and I also feel excited to work with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

‘Without my experience at iSLanDS, I would not have been able to get this job. I benefitted from my studies at iSLanDS in many aspects, including gathering international project experience in the Peer to Peer Deaf literacy project, improving my research skills, and gaining experience in publishing at Ishara Press. I am now familiar with the entire process of producing research publications in an international context, which is hugely advantageous in my new position as well as being an indispensable part of an academic career.

‘But it was the transformative, deaf-led approaches and the special attention paid to ethics at iSLanDS that have had perhaps the greatest impact on my personal values. I feel that studying at an institute that is leading in this area will have a long-term impact on my future career.’

Please join us in congratulating Rita and wishing her the best success at UNESCO.



SIGN8 Call for Papers deadline extended to 14 May

12 April, 2017

We are pleased to share that the deadline for the SIGN8 Call for Papers is now extended until 14 May. This exciting conference, the eighth in our ground-breaking SIGN series and the first to be hosted in South America, takes place this autumn at UFSC in Florianopolis, Brazil, from 9-12 October. Further details on submitting your abstract are available at the SIGN8 website.


iSLanDS PhD bursary

8 April, 2017

The iSLanDS Institute has advertised a PhD bursary with a deadline for applications on 30th April. For full information see this link:

This interdisciplinary PhD project explores the relationships between the implementation of capacity building measures in deaf communities in the Global South on the one hand, and the (subjective) experience and (objective) manifestations of agency by deaf people on the other hand. The aim is to track the ways in which deaf people with active roles in applied linguistics projects enact, perceive, and extend the level of their agency, which is understood as people’s capacity for conscious individual and collective goal-directed action in context.

Candidates should have (or expect to hold) a Master’s degree or equivalent in a subject area relevant to the project, and must have sign language skills. The successful applicant must start on 1st July 2017.

For further information, contact the Director of Studies Prof Ulrike Zeshan at

SIGN8 on 9-12 Oct in Brazil – Call for Papers

16 March, 2017



The SIGN8 conference will take place on 9-12 October 2017 in Florianopolis, Brazil.

You can find the Call for Papers and all other information on this website:




Indonesian signers build collaboration and capacity at sign language research workshop

1 March, 2017

Aspiring deaf researchers from five Indonesian islands are raising the sign language research capacity of Indonesia’s deaf and academic communities at a workshop coordinated by PUPET. Hosted by our Jakarta partner Atma Jaya University and funded by the British Council Indonesia, this workshop includes 12 participants from Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Bali and Sulawesi, led by PUPET hub coordinator Muhammad Isnaini and our research fellow Nick Palfreyman, whose Leverhulme project represents the same five islands.


All last week, the 12 participants engaged in discussions and activities on sign language linguistics, ethical research, language variation, and the history of the Indonesian sign community, using a range of interactive materials and a peer education philosophy. They were especially inspired by the insights of a bilingual participant who uses both Indonesian Sign Language and Kata Kolok, a rural sign language in Bali. For many participants, Ni Made Dadi Astini was the first Kata Kolok signer they had met, and they were fascinated to learn about her Balinese village.


One activity explored the links between deaf communities in different Indonesian cities

This week, for the final two days of the workshop, the participants are joined by eight experienced academics from Atma Jaya, the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, UNAND in Padang, and UNS Solo, to explore the potential for effective sign language research collaboration with deaf community members. Nick commented: ‘The first week of our workshop was a great success, with participants quick to establish strong friendships and keen to share their experiences with each other. We are now eager to share our knowledge and enthusiasm with the hearing academics.’


Participants visited Atma Jaya University library to increase their understanding of research


They used statues to reflect on linguistic rights for deaf people


Learning by doing: Participants used ELAN to explore sign language phonology


Sign languages in the World Atlas: Our scholars meet linguists and deaf leaders at UNESCO

27 February, 2017

Our scholars met last week in Paris with deaf community leaders, linguists, and members of the UNESCO Secretariat to discuss the forthcoming debut of sign languages in the World Atlas of Languages.


Kang-Suk Byun, Hasan Dikyuva, Ulrike Zeshan and Florjan Rojba at UNESCO last week


Our director, Prof Ulrike Zeshan, and our associates Kang-Suk Byun from South Korea and Hasan Dikyuva from Turkey, advised the attendees about work at iSLanDS so far on researching and cataloguing endangered sign languages. They advised attendees about differences in the threats to rural and urban sign languages, pressure on minority sign languages from dominant or foreign sign languages, and the issue of policies promoting sign language standardisation. The scoring system for assessing the degree of endangerment for sign languages, previously developed at iSLanDS, was also explained.

World Federation of the Deaf board member Florjan Rojba from Albania situated the planned work in the context of the UNCRPD and the WFD strategic priorities in his presentation.

Alongside linguists from the Foundation for Endangered Languages, who also attended the meeting, UNESCO has been extending its Atlas, and the latest development will include sign languages for the first time, both those that are endangered and those that are still relatively safe.

At the meeting, the 12 participants shared ideas on the design of the new interactive online platform of the Atlas, and how to make it fully accessible to deaf communities. The inclusion of sign languages in a new UNESCO questionnaire that seeks information on languages from national governments was also discussed.

We are thrilled that the next Atlas will put sign languages “on the map” alongside spoken languages, and we are grateful to everyone who has contributed to this exciting and impactful work. 

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.