Government Equalities Office
Printable version

BSL users appointed to board advising Government on key issues for Deaf people

Speaking at the British Deaf Association’s BSL Conference, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Tom Pursglove MP, has today [Friday 17 March] appointed 16 members to the new British Sign Language (BSL) Advisory Board, which will advise the Government on key issues impacting the Deaf community.

  • Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Tom Pursglove MP, appoints 16 members from across the UK to the BSL Advisory Board
  • Appointment follows visit by the Minister and Board co-chair Craig Crowley to Royal School for the Deaf Derby
  • Approximately 151,000 people in the UK use BSL - the BSL Act recognised it as a language of England, Wales and Scotland

Appointees include: Zoe Fudge-Ajadi and Vicki Ashmore, Deaf/Blind tactile BSL signers who co-founded the charity BRIGHT Deafblind BSL; Asif Iqbal MBE, a rehabilitation officer for deaf and hard of hearing people who has spent his career in the public and not for profit sectors to increase representation and remove barriers for d/Deaf and disabled people; and the Scott Garthwaite, the Punk Chef, of Michelin star restaurant Hambleton Hall.

The appointments come after the Minister met teachers and pupils at the Royal School for the Deaf Derby, accompanied by BSL Advisory Board co-chair and trustee of the school, Craig Crowley MBE FRSA. Around 120 children, aged 3 to 19, attend the school which offers a broad range of subjects taught in the languages best understood by each child, and supports children to develop their language using their preferred method of communication.

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Tom Pursglove MP, said:

“Meeting the pupils at the Royal School for the Deaf Derby and seeing how they are supported according to their individual needs was truly inspiring. Communication is a basic human right, and the British Sign Language Act makes it a reality for these children.

“The BSL Board will guide us on our path to implement these important changes, and I am pleased to be working with them, and learning from them, so that together we can make the UK a more inclusive and accessible society.”

BSL Board co-chair, Craig Crowley MBE FRSA, said:

“I am delighted that the Minister for Disabled People saw first-hand in Derby the important value of BSL in education, which has certainly made a huge difference in terms of basic human rights in Sign Language and Deaf culture.

“I am really looking forward to welcoming onboard the new members of the BSL Advisory Board and together we begin our BSL journey towards implementing important milestones from the BSL Act 2022.”

The Board’s remit will be:

  • advising on the use of BSL in public communications and policy delivery
  • advising on how to tackle key issues facing Deaf people, such as how to increase the numbers of BSL interpreters

Recognising BSL as a language in England, Scotland and Wales for the first time, the BSL Act 2022 has made a significant difference to Deaf BSL users and signers across the country. The Board will provide expert advice, informed by their own experiences, to the Government on the implementation of the Act. A senior civil servant will serve as the other co-chair.

The main criteria for appointment for all independent members included a lived experience of BSL, alongside a willingness to work collaboratively in assisting the Government to be more accessible. The members have been appointed for three-year terms.

The members of the board are:

  • Craig Crowley MBE FRSA
  • Gaye Hampton
  • Erin McCluskey
  • Brian Kokoruwe
  • Scott Garthwaite
  • Mangayarkkarasy Sutharsan
  • Kate Reed
  • Joanna Atkinson
  • Asif Iqbal MBE
  • Sylvia Simmonds
  • Theresa Devine
  • Richard MacQueen
  • Ahmed Mudawi
  • Martin Thacker
  • Richard Platt
  • Zoe Fudge-Ajadi and Vicki Ashmore
  • Samantha Stocken


Craig Crowley MBE FRSA

Craig Crowley is CEO of Action Deafness, a Deaf-led charity providing BSL interpreting and community support. He was founder Chair and Honorary President of UK Deaf Sport and obtained an MBE in 2006 in recognition of his service to Deaf Sport. He has also been a former Trustee of Signature and founding Trustee of the National Register of Communication Professionals working with Deaf People. He currently serves as a Trustee for the Royal School for the Deaf Derby.


Gaye Hampton

Gaye works as a Project Manager in Directions Plus where she works to get Deaf people into work across 11 counties in Wales. She is also a qualified Translator and an advisor to Signature (a national charity and the leading awarding body for Deaf communication and language qualifications in the UK) and the National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD). She also sits on the Wales Council for Deaf People.

Erin McCluskey

Erin is a student who was a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament from 2019-2021 and passed a Motion in relation to public services and ensuring accessibility for BSL users. She is a Trustee for the West Scotland Deaf Children’s Society and works for the British Deaf Association in Scotland, as a freelance outreach worker.

Brian Kokoruwe

Brian is a Deaf Equality Trainer and set up nearly ten years ago. He is a qualified Teacher of the Deaf and holds MA Deaf Education International. He has written 3 books on Deafness. He worked on National Sensory Impaired Partnership (NatSIP’s) DfE contract for Sensory Impairment; also at College with responsibility for learners with medical conditions; at Citizens Advice and RAD. Since COVID he has been part of NHS Patient Participation Groups and is a Trustee of Manchester Deaf Centre.

Scott Garthwaite

Scott is a Deaf chef at a Michelin star restaurant, Hambleton Hall. He has been a committee member of two Deaf social clubs in the North East and manager of a Deaf football team, also in the North East. Scott has a media presence as the ‘Punk Chef’ with many TV appearances and uses his social media to promote Deaf awareness.

Mangayarkkarasy Sutharsan

Mangayarkkarsy works as Director of Empowering Deaf Society - a charity that delivers employment support, advocacy and advice in BSL. She is a Trustee of Suvai Deaf East Community (reaches 480 Deaf people across London). She is a qualified BSL teacher and ran her own BSL training company Deaf Touch Ltd till 2014. She also formerly worked at the Royal Association for Deaf People.

Kate Reed

Kate works as Headteacher of Deaf Provisions across Primary and Secondary with a Deaf-led team. She previously worked with the Department for Education (DfE) at a national level as an Inclusion Expert for Deaf Education and SEND for several years. She is a member of BATOD and committee for Deaf Teachers of the Deaf. In 2020, she was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship for ‘International Research of Deaf Education.

Since 2017 she has worked with Manchester University and Leeds University to support Teachers of the Deaf, and since 2016, she has worked with the BSL Consortium for Education.

Joanna Atkinson

Joanna is a clinical specialist and lecturer specialising in neuropsychology. She provides cognitive, brain injury and mental health assessments, therapy and rehabilitation with Deaf adults and children. She works with BSL users with brain conditions including dementia, stroke, developmental disorders and head injuries. Her scientific research has led to new BSL diagnostic tools and new understanding of how people think in BSL, how the brain processes BSL and the nature of BSL hallucinations and other clinical phenomena. She is a member of the British Deaf Association, SENSE, Deafblind UK and British Society of Mental Health and Deafness.

Asif Iqbal, MBE

Asif is Deaf and is a Rehabilitation Officer for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people with Camden Council. He has spent his career in the public and not for profit sectors - local and central government along with health services - to increase representation and remove barriers for deaf and disabled people. Asif has been President of the Harrow and Brent United Deaf Club since 2009 and is a past Chair of Camden Disability Network.

He is also a Chair of Hearing Loss Professionals UK Network, sharing knowledge and expertise with NHS England and key stakeholders. Asif has also appeared on various TV shows including BBC2’s !mpossible, LetterBox and Channel 4 Political Slot. He has been an extra on Coronation Street and Eastenders.

Asif was awarded MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2011 for public service.

Sylvia Simmonds

Sylvia is a freelance Deaf Advocate, advocating for Deaf people in a variety of areas including family law, mental health, education, employment, and discrimination disputes. She specialises in legal work with a focus on cultural mediation in court and BSL translation of legal documents. As part of the COVID-19 pandemic she took on a large project focusing on making information accessible to BSL users.

She has been involved with the British Deaf Association for 39 years as vice chair, trustee, and member of staff. She was LGBTQ+ advisory to the World Federation for the Deaf and was a Trustee of the Deaf Womens Health Organisation and is currently on the Data Ethics Committee of Thames Valley Police.

Theresa Marie Devine

Teri is a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult). She works as Associate Director for Strategic Programme – Inclusion at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID). She is currently a Trustee at Forth Valley Sensory Centre and also a member of the Justice of the Peace Advisory Committee (Glasgow) Committee. She was formerly Vice Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Hard of Hearing Group (07/2011 – 09/2017).

Richard MacQueen

Richard works for Deaf Action as Head of Video Production. He is a Trustee for National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People, and formerly Deaf Links (2010 -2016).

Ahmed Mudawi

Ahmed works as a TV presenter for ‘This is Deaf’ under BSL Zone. He is studying to be a qualified translator and deaf relay interpreter. He provides Deaf awareness training, and is a member of St Johns Community Deaf Club in London; a member of the British Deaf Association (BDA); a member of Clapham Deaf Club; a member of ASLI (Association Sign Language Interpreter); and Colour Interpreters Network.

Martin Thacker

Martin works as Deputy Director at the National Deaf Children’s Society; Vice President of Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire Deaf Society; Committee member of North Derbyshire Deaf Forum; Member of Derbyshire Constabulary Deaf Advisory Group; and Member of CODA UK. He is also a Conservative Councillor on North East Derbyshire District Council, for the Brampton and Walton ward.

Richard Platt

Richard is Chairman of Ipswich Deaf Children’s Society. He is also a committee member of the Children’s Hearing Services Working Group.

Zoe Fudge-Ajadi and Vicki Ashmore

Representing Deafblind tactile BSL signers.

Zoe is Deafblind and Vicky is a Deaf/Deafblind interpreter. Together they are co-founders and Director/Assistant Director of BRIGHT Deafblind. Vicky is also a Board member of Bromley Reform Synagogue.

Samantha Stocken

Samantha is a  teacher, volunteer in a hospital, and trustee for Gloucestershire Deaf Association (GDA), Samantha advocates for her son who is Deaf. She is an Educational Consultant in Gloucestershire who works as “Deaf Aware”, so she can support schools where d/Deaf children attend or have d/Deaf parents/carers.

Channel website:

Original article link:

Share this article

Latest News from
Government Equalities Office

Exclusive offers, deals and discounts available to public sector staff, past and present!