25th Anniversary - The Voice from Silent Hands
Dorothy “Dot” Miles, 19 August 1931 – 30 January 1993
Her talents seemed endless. Widely regarded as the pioneer of BSL poetry, Dot Miles was not only a poet, she was a playwright, performer, scholar, teacher and passionate activist.
Dot contracted cerebrospinal meningitis, which left her deaf at age eight. Educated at the Royal School for the Deaf and the Mary Hare School, she later won a scholarship to attend Gallaudet University in Washington DC, becoming the first member of a junior class to be a member of the prestigious Gallaudet Phi Alpha Pi Honour Society.
She edited the student magazines and won prizes for both her prose writing and poetry and for acting. She married fellow student, Robert Thomas Miles in September 1958, later separating in 1959.
After she graduated in 1961 with a BA with distinction, she pursued her passion for theatre and joined the newly founded National Theatre of the Deaf and began to create sign language poetry that appealed to both deaf and hearing audiences – with the aim of bridging the gap between both worlds.
After 20 years in America, she returned to live in England in 1977, and was soon involved in the National Union of the Deaf’s Open Door (BBC TV) pioneering television programme, as well as being a key person in discussions that led to the See Hear television series.
Then the BDA came calling, where she compiled the first teaching manual for BSL tutors and became involved in setting up the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People.
Dorothy didn’t stop there, working as a self-employed writer, lecturer and performer and becoming involved in promotion of sign language teaching and training of tutors and deaf theatre.
She was involved in setting up and then teaching on the British Sign Language Tutor Training Course – the first university course for training deaf people to become BSL tutors. She also wrote the best-selling BBC book "BSL – A Beginner’s Guide", which was published to complement the television series.
Dorothy “Dot” Miles - The Mother of Sign Poetry.