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Developing Deaf Legal Theory

Welcome to the Developing Deaf Legal Theory (DLT) Blog.  This is maintained by Dr Rob Wilks at Cardiff University.  Originally from Newport, South Wales, Rob is a Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) user and teaches through the medium of BSL.  He was awarded a doctorate in 2020 by the University of Leicester exploring whether equality law is working for Deaf people and whether sign language recognition will achieve transformative equality.

DLT is a term that was coined by Bryan and Emery (2014), and they define it as ‘how the law seeks to frame Deaf people’ (p. 37).  DLT is a new concept in the field of study known as ‘jurisprudence,’ that is, various critical approaches to law through which a critical examination of legal systems can be made.

Bryan and Emery (2014, p. 56) argue that for ‘Deaf jurisprudence’ to develop, the current underpinnings of law that are based on incomplete assumptions need to be exposed, and in order to do so, DLT needs to be applied to particular aspects of the law.  In the process, the law’s incomplete assumptions of Deaf people will be exposed.

Wilks argues that his doctoral thesis and his post-doctoral research all fit under the DLT umbrella, and he has so far exposed incomplete assumptions in the areas of equality law (Wilks, 2020), sign language interpreters and translation (Wilks, 2022), deaf education (Wilks & O’Neill, 2022; O’Neill & Wilks, 2021), and is now turning his attention to sign language recognition, employment, charitable organisations and the criminal justice system.

This blog aims to provide a central resource for this exposure, bringing DLT to the attention of legal and deaf studies scholars world-wide as a theoretical perspective to be applied to any legal study that involves Deaf people.

Bryan, A., & Emery, S. (2014). The case for Deaf legal theory through the lens of Deaf gain. In H.-D. L. Bauman & J. J. Murray (Eds.), Deaf Gain: Raising the Stakes for Human Diversity (pp. 37–62). London: University of Minnesota Press.
Wilks, R. (2020). Making equality law work for Deaf people [Doctoral dissertation, University of Leicester]. University of Leicester Repository. 764.v1.
O’Neill, R., & Wilks, R. (2021). The impact of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 on deaf education.
Wilks, R. (2022). Developing Deaf jurisprudence: the role of interpreters and translators. In C. Stone, R. Adam, R. Müller de Quadros, & C. Rathmann (Eds.) Routledge Handbook of Sign Language Translation and Interpreting (pp. 249-266). London: Routledge.
Wilks, R. & O’Neill, R. (2022). Deaf Education in Scotland and Wales: Attitudes to British Sign Language in deaf education compared to Gaelic and Welsh.