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First deafness awareness conference organised for midwives and other health professionals.


The vibrant programme offered a range of attractions including fabulous speakers and presentations, workshops, art displays, raffle tickets, interactive activities, service users personal accounts, Deaf Nest documentary and more, allowing particpants to reflect on their personal and professional development. The Conference was held in the dynamic city of Manchester at the University of Salford on 11th of June.


Read delegates feedback from the conferecne:


‘Today has most definitely prompted me to think about my communication practice as a professional. I feel much more aware of how I would possibly be able to promote communication needs and to provide a holistic and individualised care to deaf parents on their journey into parenthood. ‘


‘It has really opened my eyes and raised awareness of maternity services and the inequalities that Deaf people face when they access health services.’


‘I have made learning sign language as a long term goal in my personal development portfolio. I would like to increase my knowledge further.’


‘Informative, interesting and stories were inspirational.’



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Sheena Byrom OBE

Registered Midwife, MA


Sheena Byrom is a practising midwife, and worked within the NHS for more than 35 years. Sheena was one of the UK’s first consultant midwives, and successfully helped to lead the development of three birth centres in East Lancashire. She currently chairs the Royal College of Midwives Campaign for Normal Birth, and lectures nationally on midwifery and childbirth related topics. Sheena is the Patron of StudentMidwife.Net and a Trustee of the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust. Her midwifery memoirs, Catching Babies, is a Sunday Times bestseller, and her absolute passion is promoting normal birth, and a positive childbirth experience for all women. Sheena was awarded an OBE in 2011, for services to midwifery. Sheena actively lobbies for maternity service improvements through several social media channels. Sheena is currently an Independent Midwifery Advisor, and her personal and midwifery related website is

Sheena said:  ‘I am delighted and honoured to Chair this innovative and inspirational event, that aims to support services for those whose voices are often unheard.’

Dionne Marie Thomas

Professional BSL/English interpreter and Founder of Diverse Signs 


Dionne Thomas works as a professional BSL / English interpreters and has worked within the Deaf community for over 14 years. As well as being involved with several Deaf-led organisations, she also runs a translation service providing Deaf BSL users with access to written English through British Sign Language videos. Dionne currently lives in Lancashire after spending 8 years studying Brirish Sign language, interpreting and translation at the University of Central Lancashire. She now holds a Post Graduate Diploma in BSL / English interpreting & translation.


Dionne became the Deaf Nest Ambassador in March 2014 and stated:‘


'As a committed Christian, I decided that for Lent this year I would like to do more than just ‘give up’ things. Instead, I am going to give up the time I normally spend on my business to 2 very worthwhile projects: Deaf Nest & Deaf Business Academy. Both projects are currently unfunded and rely on donations to carry out their activities. I hope that over the next 40 days my contribution to these projects will bring positive benefits for the Deaf people they connect with.’




Jonathan Swift 

Acting Project Manager for the Deaf Health Champions Project 

Jonathan is the acting Project Manager for the Deaf Health Champions project and is based at the Manchester Deaf Centre, where he has been working for 6 years. His current role is to manage the DHC project, which is a Department Of Health pilot project that covers the Greater Manchester, Merseyside & Cumbria regions. His experience of working within the Deaf community, has helped him to gain an understanding of the experiences a Deaf or hard of hearing person may be going through, may it be health, volunteering, employment, education, family, identity or housing. He is proud to work within such a unique community.

Janice Connolly

The volunteer co-ordinator for the Deaf Health Champions project


Janice Connolly is Deaf Health Champions volunteer co-ordinator and is profoundly deaf. She has been an active member of the deaf community since she was in school. She is an experienced British Sign Language tutor and also a very keen amateur photographer, seizing every opportunity to utilise this interest within the deaf community when they organise events and activities. Her role with the Deaf Health Champions project is recruiting deaf members of the community who then receive training and awareness around subjects, such as healthy eating and our recent “walk for health” event. The volunteers learnt how to plan and lead a group of people in walks that will ultimately encourage people to be more active. This then with the aim of the volunteers going into the community, to support members to partake in walking groups themselves.


Sue Gill 

The manager of SignHealth’s supported living care home in Leeds


Sue Gill is the manager of SignHealth’s supported living care home in Leeds. She has worked there for 16 years, starting as project manager. As the project developed, tenants wanted to move out into the community so she established an outreach service to support tenants moving on, and also people in the community who needed support to remain in their own homes. In 2010 she was approached by Supporting People to set up a Housing support Service for Leeds residents, again providing support to people who needed it to remain in their own homes. Together with her team Sue is hoping to set up a further project for people wishing to live alone but near other Deaf people, and also provision for older Deaf people in residential care as there is currently no specialist provision for this client group. Sue started to become Deaf at the age of 5, slowly until at the age of about 14 she could no longer hear anything useful. She attended Canterbury University to read History and English in 1975, before interpreters as we know them now were a twinkle in Otis’s eye. On graduating she went to work for RAD in Gillingham, and remained there, setting up their interpreting service which was one of the first of its kind in the country. She moved back to Leeds to be near family in 1998, to work for SignHealth. She has two children and was a single parent from the time her son was 3 years old. She said: ‘Working and bringing up children alone is not easy but it has its own rewards’. She had difficult personal experiences of the maternity services, and then went on to serve on the maternity services committee of the Community Health Council, and have served on various bodies since the CHC’s were disbanded.



Paulina Ewa Sporek

Student midwife at the University of Salford


Paulina is originally from Poland. She first arrived to United Kingdom in 2008. In Poland, she has qualified as a paramedic and during her training she worked with deaf people and became a qualified in Polish Sign Language. She is recently a student midwife at the University of Salford. Paulina has won a national award for a project to help improve maternity care for deaf women and their families. She is the first student midwife to win a Royal College of Midwife Award since they were established 14 years ago, the Slimming World Award for Public Health for her ‘Deaf Nest’ initiative. Paulina was inspired to create the Deaf Nest project because she felt that deaf pregnant women and their partners were not getting the right help and support. Deaf Nest provides support and guidance through leaflets, visual aids, quick reference diagrams, flash cards and videos presented in British Sign Language. These materials will be made available on a website which is currently under development. Most recently, Paulina received the Certificate of Commendation from the Cavell Trust and has been shortlisted for The British Journal of Midwifery Awards. She is  speaker and organiser of the event.

Felicity Lambert 

Manager of National Breastfeeding Helpline


Felicity is managing the National Breastfeeding Helpline- the Department of Health funded breastfeeding support telephone helpline. All calls are answered by highly trained, experienced volunteers, who have all breastfed their own babies, and all have been trained by the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers and the Breastfeeding Network. The helpline offers mother centred, non judgmental, evidence based, independent breastfeeding support and information to anyone who needs it. In March 2014 National Breastfeeding Helpline launched a brand new breastfeeding support service - live web chat. No other national charities are offering this sort of support for breastfeeding currently, and it reaches mums who either don't want or are not able to access the telephone helpline. This includes mums with hearing or speech impairments, for whom telephone help may not be suitable. Felicity believes it's really important that all mums should be able to access good quality breastfeeding support if they want it, and for as long as they need it for - whether that's one day, one week, one month, one year or more.

Bernadette Gregory

Senior Lecturer in Midwifery at De Montfort University, Leicester


Bernadette Gregory is a Senior Lecturer in Midwifery at DeMontfort University, Leicester where she has taught midwifery issues, social policy and disability awareness to student midwives for a number of years. As a nurse and a midwife she developed a particular interest in how disabled women adapt to the challenges of pregnancy. She has undertaken research projects and published work surrounding the issues faced by disabled parents living in the UK. Bernadette has more recently published work involving Deaf Parents with the introduction of BSL and Deaf Awareness to student midwives as part of their midwifery course. This has gained extensive media interest (including BBC See Hear programme and local and national news programmes). This work has also been successfully nominated for a national award from Deaf Parenting UK in 2011 particularly praising the collaborative work of De Montfort University working with the voluntary sector..

Claire Jonson

Founder and Chief Executive of Genie Networks


Genie Networks is a local organisation based in Greater Manchester supporting deaf people and their families. Claire founded Genie Networks nine years ago after a life time of experiencing barriers as a deaf person. Her services cater for a wide range of families with vast and varying experiences.

Lesley Chan 

Midwife at the Central Manchester Foundation Trust


Lesley is a mother to four ladies and a midwife working full time in a large and busy delivery unit at Central Manchester Foundation Trust. In 2005 she was expecting her fourth child. Immediately post-delivery Amélie became evidently unwell and after alerting the midwife, a doctor re-assessed her and transferred Amélie to the neonatal department. A long 5 months initially hospitalised and a further 22 trips to theatre and several lifesaving emergency surgeries on, and she is the very proud parent of Amélie who also happens to have CHARGE syndrome. And soLesley’s journey began, from advocacy to speaking up for Amélie’s needs in healthcare and education. As a midwife and mother deaf awareness has become a priority for her and a dual role. Every deaf child will become an adult and may access maternity care too. Lesley endeavour to continue to raise awareness of a paucity of simple sign language in the hospitals. This prompted her NHS pledge for simple sign language to be part of everyday clinical care. To enable Amélie to be fully included in her care because she deserves and wants to be in control as she matures.

Vivien Sabel 

Clinical Psychotherapist and Writer


Vivien Sabel is a Child Of a Deaf Adult (CoDA), the award-winning author of The Blossom Method - The Revolutionary Way To Communicate With Your Baby From Birth and a registered Psychotherapist. She formerly trained as a BSL Interpreter (University of Bristol) and now runs her own international psychotherapy/clinical service for both Deaf and hearing children and adults. Vivien is a published researcher and her paper ‘Life After Delivery’ was published in the European Journal for Qualitative Research in Psychotherapy. She works with many parents and babies to support them with Postnatal Depression where she utilises both The Blossom Method and her psychotherapy skills to create and support positive change. The Blossom Method was published in 2012 and it has received international acclaim; most recently Vivien was nominated by Professor McAlpine (University of Sydney) for an award from the World Association for Infant Mental Health. Vivien was commended by world leaders in infant mental health for 'her wonderful contributions to the field of communication.' Vivien teaches psychotherapy and The Blossom Method has been added to the attachment theory curriculum. Her latest writing project for Professor McAlpine, is a chapter on infant communication for her latest volume of Inspired Children: How The Leading Minds of Today Raise Their Kids. Her attunement to infants and their non-verbal expressions sees her being a regular contributor to international conferences, global publications & worldwide media including The Times of India, BBC. Junior and Mother and Baby. Vivien is a keen advocate for breastfeeding. She has had personal experience of birth trauma and infant loss. In February 2012 she was diagnosed with hearing loss, this she sees as a further gift from her own deaf (non-signing) mother.

Sarah Powell 

Clinical Psychologist Step 3 Practitioner


Dr Sarah Powell is profoundly deaf and gained a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool.  She is one of only four Deaf Clinical Psychologists in the United Kingdom.  Sarah currently holds the post of Clinical Psychologist/Step 3 Practitioner at BSL Healthy Minds (Sign Health), providing Psychological Therapy services for deaf, deafened and deaf/blind individuals experiencing depression and anxiety. Sarah has a long history working and volunteering in different organisations involved in mental health and deafness including John Denmark Unit and Alpha Hospitals.  She is passionate about ensuring that psychological therapies are delivered in an accessible way for all deaf people.


Sarah was an active member of the initial Improving Access to Psychological Therapies  (IAPT) steering group, set up to explore the needs of the deaf community in this clinical area.  The result being, the establishment of BSL Healthy Minds. Sarah is well versed in using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and has adapted a variety of relevant materials.  The adapted materials have made therapy more meaningful and accessible for deaf BSL users, including those with post natal depression. Sarah is an Honorary Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University and continues in her quest to ensure deaf people have equal access to psychological therapies in the community. 

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