It was hard work to teach Sense Sign School but I enjoyed it!

A young man standing in front of seats in a sports stadium. He's smiling with his arms in the air, and he's holding a trophy.

Our Sense Sign School hero Tyrese Dibba has won a Pride of Birmingham Award. How amazing is that?!

When we launched Sense Sign School, a series of free online lessons teaching British Sign Language (BSL), last May, we had no idea how crazy things would get. The programme helped 80,000 people learn sign language during lockdown.

And the key to it all? One inspiring 15-year-old called Tyrese Dibba (better known as Mr. Tyrese by his students!).

Tyrese was the star of the show. And now, the jokes and cheeky demeanour that inspired thousands to learn have won him the Stephen Sutton Inspiration Award at the 2021 Pride of Birmingham Awards.

The Pride of Birmingham Awards celebrate the city’s unsung heroes, including those who have made a positive impact during the pandemic, and Tyrese’s impact couldn’t be more positive.

It’s every football fan’s dream to meet their favourite team, and as part of the awards Tyrese got to do just that. Tyrese had an amazing time meeting Conor Coady, the Wolverhampton Football Team Captain, even teaching him a few signs.

We’ve heard from Tyrese, and he’s thrilled to have the award. He told us:

“Thank you. I’m happy I won. It was hard work to teach everyone sign but I enjoyed it! I loved meeting Conor Coady as part of the awards and loved showing him some signs, like how to spell his name, his sign name and his shirt number.”

Supported by Sense

A young man wearing a suit and tie standing next to his mother. There's a blackboard next to them with the words 'Sense Sign School with Mr. Tyrese' written on it.

Tyrese has been part of the Sense family for years. Since he was six months old, Sense has been supporting him to do fantastic things, like having lots of fun on a Sense Holiday and learning how to communicate using BSL, gesture and writing.

Like all of us at Sense, Tyrese’s mother, Vicky, is really proud of her son. Tyrese’s cheeky character certainly brought a smile to everyone’s face in a long lockdown, but what other effect does Vicky think Sense Sign School has had?

She explained, “Ty was really shocked and surprised about winning a Pride of Birmingham Award.

“As for me, I’m very proud of Tyrese; he made Sense Sign School his own, showing his pride in his language and culture.”

Don’t miss class!

It’s not too late to learn BSL with Mr. Tyrese. Join today to find out how amazing he is.

Sense’s activity resources helped fill time for my daughter in lockdown

Sarah explains how Sense’s activity resources have helped fill her daughter Phoebe’s time in lockdown.

I’m Sarah, married to Andrew and we have two daughters. Our youngest daughter, Phoebe is 20 and has a rare chromosome disorder called Pitt Hopkins Syndrome. She is lucky enough to attend Sense College at Rothwell on their education pathway, for 3 days each week. Sense College offers personalised learning for young people with complex disabilities, aged between 16 and 25.

Phoebe enjoys a course of sports activities

We’ve received support from Sense, especially over the last 12 months while we have been shielding with Phoebe. The college has been keeping in regular contact and we have received activities to do from college and from the Sense arts, sports and wellbeing team.

When we were in lockdown, filling our time was hard, so Sense’s activities were great. Just following a programme while in lockdown was useful, and we were so grateful to have so much to choose from, what to repeat, and how we could adapt the suggestions for Phoebe.

Over the last few months, every two weeks we were excited to receive emails from Sense, with activities to do. I took a bit of time to work out which were appropriate for us and then got to work gathering the resources before then working out our week and where we would fit the activities in. 


Sense’s new activity finder makes it easier than ever to find accessible things to do that get you motivated to move, create and explore! Check out anything from sensory sport to inclusive relaxation and music.

Our ambitious new strategy will see us deliver vital support to more people than ever before

Two men in conversation outside

It was vital 65 years ago when two mothers, Peggy Freeman and Margaret Brock, founded Sense to deliver support to families and children with deafblindness.  

And it is vital today, establishing ourselves as the leading charity for disabled people with complex needs, and their families, in the UK.  

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which created unprecedented challenges for society, has been acute for disabled people and their families. 

The pandemic crisis exacerbated existing barriers disabled people face and exposed new issues.  

Throughout, I have been proud of the passion and commitment of Sense staff to meet the changing needs of the children, adults and families we support, embracing new ways of working and developing new services. 

We know, however, as the country takes its cautious first steps out of lockdown, that many people with complex disabilities, including those who are deafblind, still miss out on the vital support that they need. 

That’s why we’re launching our refreshed five-year strategy (2021 to 2026), setting out how we plan to reach more people than ever before. Our plans attempt to embrace the passion and commitment of our staff and take the best of what we have learnt over the past year as we look ahead to a better future. 

We believe that no one, no matter how complex their disabilities, should be left out, isolated, or unable to fulfil their potential.  We want to ensure that more people get the support they need and can live life to the full. 

A smiling man supporting a young man with complex disabilities

Four outcomes of our new strategy

To achieve this, our work over the next five years will prioritise four strategic outcomes: 

  1. We will work to ensure the best possible start for children and families. 

    This will include extending our reach to support 30,000 children and families over a five-year period, developing new programmes and scaling up online provision.  

  2. We will do more to support adults to live and learn at every stage of their lives. 

    This will include growing our housing, day opportunities, colleges and community-based services, so children, young people and adults can access support at our sites or in their local communities. 

  3. We will strive to reduce loneliness and isolation.   

    This will include generating new social connections for more than 30,000 people over a five-year period, including 5,000 through our buddy service, which connects disabled and non-disabled volunteers, and over 1,000 siblings, many of whom are young carers.

  4. We will give people a voice which would otherwise be unheard and change our wider society by inspiring more people to take-action in support of our cause. 

    This will include increasing our number of supporters to over 250,000, creating more operational roles for our volunteers, and opening more retail spaces, generating greater awareness and connections with local communities.  
A man supports a man with complex disabilities to eat his lunch

Join our mission to make sure no one is left out of life

Our strategy is a call to action to everyone who shares our vision, that no one, no matter how complex their disabilities, should be isolated, left out, or unable to fulfil their potential. 

Everyone connected to Sense, be it our staff, volunteers or supporters, and of course, the families and individuals we support, are urged to come together in pursuit of our shared aim.  

Now is the moment to make a difference. 

Keep up to date on our progress and find out how you can support Sense.

Support for Ted and Ernie!

Ernie was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome and has been supported by Sense for a number of years, always with his brother Ted, for support by his side. During the lockdown, both brothers have managed to make the most of everything Sense has to offer.  Ted and Ernie’s mum Helen, tells us all about the support they’ve all been receiving.

Brothers Ted and Ernie posing for a photograph together.
Continue reading “Support for Ted and Ernie!”

Zach’s Story

Zach and Luca’s mum Faye tells us about the incredible bond between the brothers. Luca has CHARGE syndrome and Zach, along with his family care for Luca.

Faye talks about how over lockdown, Zach has benefitted from online sessions offered by Sense, when his football for example stopped.

Zachary has always been absolutely amazing with his little brother, Luca. As a mother, I couldn’t be prouder of him but, I always felt a pang of guilt that I could never spend as much time with him has I do with Luca. You see, Luca was born with CHARGE syndrome which is a rare genetic condition that affects his vision, hearing and balance. Sense and other organisations have been there for Luca, but it always left me wondering, who was there for Zach.

Zach and Luca sitting under a tree in the woods
Continue reading “Zach’s Story”

I’ve spent years living an isolated life, but the pandemic has increased my loneliness

A man kneeling down stroking a cat in a garden.

Ian, 42, is from Rochford, Essex, and has Usher syndrome. His work as a photographer came to a complete stop during the pandemic, leaving him more isolated.

My name is Ian, I’m a photographer from Rochford, Essex, and I have Usher syndrome. This is a progressive condition which causes deafness and gradual sight loss.

I’ve experienced loneliness throughout my life, but the pandemic has magnified my sense of isolation. I live alone with my cat, Teddy, who has been a “saviour” for me in these difficult times.  

The pandemic made me feel absolutely petrified because I’ve spent years living an isolated life, knowing what it can to you and your mental health. Loneliness affects everything – you stop functioning as a human being.

My photography work came to a complete stop due to the pandemic, which has further increased my sense of isolation. 

The only time I go out is for essential shopping. I don’t have a set routine anymore and I’m not seeing people regularly. When you’re blind, you live a very isolated lifestyle already, so being able to go out and meet other people is essential to your connection.

I believe that raising greater awareness about disability and improving accessibility will help to create a more inclusive society where disabled people feel less lonely. 

Despite all the struggles of the last year, I’m feeling hopeful about the future and looking forward to connecting with others again. I’m drawing from my past experience with isolation to get through this pandemic. I’m taking each day as it comes and looking ahead to the spring and summer for more light.

Sign our pledge and join us in taking action to make sure that no one is left out of life.

One year on since the UK’s first lockdown

Two young men sitting next to each other. One is talking whilst the other young man smiles.

This last year has been difficult for so many people around the world. The news has been dominated by coronavirus and it feels like the lockdowns have lasted a lifetime.

However, while the pandemic has raged on, there’s been moments of hope and joy. People have connected in ways that were unimaginable a year ago and we’ve supported each other to find those little moments of happiness.

At Sense, we’ve worked hard to make sure that we’re adapting the way in which we support people with complex disabilities and their families.

Friends reuniting after lockdown

There’s been numerous moments that have challenged us and, on quiet reflection, made us stronger.

After a year of lockdowns, we’d like to celebrate the reunion of two best friends, Asif and Ashton, who have formed a bubble together. Watch the video below to see them meeting again for the first time since lockdown.

Keeping connected during lockdown

Asif and Ashton’s families kept them connected during lockdown with video calls. Their familes have seen the positive impact their friendship has had on their wellbeing. Some of their family members share how happy they are that the friends have been reunited.

Lynn, Ashton’s mum, is pleased the friends can meet in person

“They’ve always been so lovely together. They’re just like two old men. We’ve tried to keep them connected during lockdown with video calls and Ashton would have his ear on my phone. Now Asif is back at Sense, Ashton is full of smiles.

The past year has been very hard. Ashton likes to be doing things. He likes to be out. We go to the park and he likes to throw the ball for the dog. He can’t walk long distances, so we’ll do a walk with the wheelchair. We take drinks and crisps, but he needs to see people.

He’s very tactile and loves hugging. There’s no social distancing with him. That’s been really hard.

We’re lucky that we had an allotment and things to amuse him here. He’s just a very friendly social lad and he does love his best friend.

I love it that Ashton and Asif are back together. I’m overjoyed and he’s just so happy. For me it’s lovely that he’s going somewhere nice and seeing his friends.”

Two young men sitting at a piano laughing.

Saima, Asif’s sister, can see how happy he is after lockdown

“For us, the past year we’ve been keeping it really basic. Asif just stayed at home most of the time. There were occasions where he did have Zoom catch ups with a few of his friends but it’s just not the same being in person.

He really misses that independence and that routine. It was a struggle. He really misses just being at Sense and that space where he can be expressive.

Now he’s back, he’s just extremely happy. We understand that he missed going to Sense and Ashton, but we didn’t appreciate to what extent.

When he first went, he came back so happy. When he attended, I remember picking him up and he was so happy to have seen Ashton. I remember seeing him just laughing. As a family, it makes us so happy to see him like this.

When we told him that he was going to get the vaccine, Asif put two and two together and he knew that he’d go back to Sense.

Asif is just a happy young guy. For the family, we’re just so grateful and indebted to Sense for keeping in contact with him.’

Sign our pledge and join us in taking action to make sure that no one is left out of life.

I’ve haven’t been out since the pandemic started nearly a year ago

Headshot of a man smiling at the camera.

Darran Thomas, 46, from Brynmawr in South Wales, started to lose his vision ten years ago when he was diagnosed with a genetic eye disorder. 

One of the biggest impacts of getting a diagnosis was having to leave my job. It was one of my main forms of social interaction as I live alone.

Although I had lots of support from my friends and family, I’ve experienced so much isolation and loneliness since losing my sight. 

Before the outbreak of Covid-19, I’d spend six hours a week with my Communicator Guide from Sense to go shopping, to the cinema or the theatre.

But, since the pandemic began, I’ve had to shield due to health issues and now only go out for medical appointments. 

It’s the loss of little things, like meeting friends and going for days out, that’s had a big impact on me. I was used to living alone, but I could still make plans when I wanted to. 

All of a sudden, it was like a shutter came down and it all totally disappeared.

Providing socially distanced support

My family live nearby so they can bring me meals and I can chat to them through the window, but I’m definitely missing days out and visiting my friends. 

I’ve not been able to go out for nearly a year and it’s quite difficult and depressing.

 I miss being out and about and the feeling of being in different environments. I miss going to the theatre more than anything – I love the sound and the experience of it.

I’m still supported by my Sense Communicator Guide in a socially distanced way and for that, I’m so grateful. She delivers my shopping, medicine and post and we can chat over the phone. 

I know my Communicator Guide is still there for me in whatever way she can be, and that really helps. You build up trust which is so important because you’re relying on them to be your eyes. She’s not just someone who supports me, she’s also a friend. Sense has made a real difference.

Sign our pledge and join us in taking action to make sure that no one is left out of life.

I experienced loneliness after the loss of my mother

Ian Capon standing outside in the street.

Ian lives on the Isle of Wight and was diagnosed with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) when he was a baby.

When my mother died in 2017, I realised how much I had depended on her for care, support and social interaction.

She gave me a lot of support. I live alone in a bungalow and I’m here on my own much of the time. Because of the restrictions of the pandemic, I don’t really see many people.

Living on the Isle of Wight, I’m fortunate to live near my sisters who I can visit for dinner or go out with for walks. Before the pandemic, I could also keep myself busy through my voluntary work.

It would have been very difficult without the voluntary work; I would have lived a much lonelier life. The only way to get over my mum passing was through voluntary work.

Loneliness can affect health and wellbeing

I was fostered at 10 days old with little information about my birth mother. Soon after my I was fostered, my sister noticed a problem with my eye. After tests, I was diagnosed with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS); a condition that could have been prevented with a simple vaccine.

CRS usually occurs when a mother contracts Rubella during her first trimester in pregnancy. It can cause sensorineural deafness, eye abnormalities and congenital heart disease.

My experience of loneliness after the loss of my mother gave me a deeper understanding of what many people with disabilities face.

The impact of loneliness can be significant for many people, especially older, as well as some disabled people. Anxiousness and boredom can be bad for health and wellbeing.

Due to this, I’m an active campaigner for disability awareness to improve public attitudes. This includes things like more community activities, access to work and employment and financial support.

Changing perceptions of people with disabilities

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, my main source of social interaction, volunteering work, was gone overnight. Thankfully, my family were close by, but access to essential services was limited.

I was lucky enough to maintain my family links but getting in food and essentials was not easy during the first couple of weeks.

My experience of disability and isolation has made me an advocate for the people in my community and I’m working hard to change the public’s perceptions of people with disabilities. I previously supported in Sense’s 2017 loneliness campaign and, due to the current pandemic, feel that now is an important time to tackle this issue again.

The number of ways Sense supports people is really astounding. From Communicator Guides to help people access the community to children’s services, there is something for everyone in the Sense family.

While the majority of the public are isolated, I know that people with disabilities have been experiencing loneliness far before the pandemic.

Sign our pledge and join us in taking action to make sure that no one is left out of life.

I would love for life to become more accessible now everyone has felt loneliness in the pandemic

A woman standing behind a podium making a speech.

Molly, from Maidenhead in Berkshire, was born severely deaf. At the age of 12, she was diagnosed with Usher syndrome, a condition which causes gradual sight and hearing loss.

My name is Molly, I’m 26 years old and I have a condition called Usher syndrome, which causes deafblindness and has no cure to date.

I’m director of Molly Watt Talks, a usability and accessibility consulting group, and co-founder of the Molly Watt Trust, a non-profit helping to raise awareness about Usher syndrome and provide access to technology. I also work part time as an accessibility and usability specialist in Nexer’s design team in the UK.

I’m also a motivational speaker, author and illustrator of two anti-bullying children’s books, and an avid blogger.

Passionate about accessibility and using assistive technology to enhance the lives of people living with life-changing conditions, I’m really proud to have spoken at Houses of Parliament, Spotify and many other tech organisations.

I’ve experienced loneliness throughout my life as my disabilities can affect my confidence.

After almost a year of lockdowns and social distancing measures, the pandemic has limited my connection to others. I can no longer meet with my friends, clients or colleagues, which has affected my overall wellbeing. However, I’ve always tried to make the most of what I can with the tools I have at home, and luckily I’ve been able to work from home all the way through the pandemic.

I’m very sad that lots of my work travelling has had to be postponed or cancelled. I’m dependent on routine and structure, socialising on a weekend helps to break up the week and allows for things to look forward to.

It’s so important to connect with people, have a laugh, and get a chance to relax. Currently, it’s just a lonely, open-ended blur.

Making life more accessible to combat loneliness

I’ve been involved with Sense for a number of years now. While I haven’t always been supported by them, I can see the value of the work they do and services they offer people who are disabled.

Simple things like going to the post office people can take for granted, which can be difficult for someone with disabilities, are suddenly made so much easier with the right tools and awareness.

I rely on public transport in my daily life and think improvements to make transport services more accessible would help my confidence to go out and gain more independence. Along with this, more community resources openly available and designed to be digitally accessible for all assistive tools.

Being able to access the local community, sports sessions, and even navigating the world of education and work does a lot to combat loneliness and the feelings of low self-esteem.

I was able to access many of these things prior to lockdown, and with the correct support and tools I was able to be more independent and of course, less lonely.

Knowing that I can count on Sense, should I need to, gives me the confidence I need to tackle the challenges in my way.

With the world growing more digitally inclined, I feel things will be gradually become more accessible, and life would hopefully improve for people who have disabilities.

Non-disabled people can possibly now empathise more with how people with disabilities can face both digital and environmental exclusion, social separation and lack of independence.

Sign our pledge and join us in taking action to make sure that no one is left out of life.