Obituary: Dr David Hyslop OBE

woman david hyslop

18/08/1925 – 18/10/2015

Pioneer who dedicated life to breaking down communication barriers made world a much better place, says BDA chair.

It is with great sadness that the British Deaf Association learned of the passing of Dr David Hyslop OBE, one of Britian’s great Deaf leaders during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.

David began his career as a skilled jewellery maker, and although it was highly respected trade, he wanted more, and that was to work in the deaf profession field, not to better himself, but to dedicate his life to the improvement of deaf people in everyday life, and to break down the communication barriers that existed between Deaf & Hearing people, and this started him on the long road, and  went on to become not only an Icon, but the highly respected Director of the Breakthrough Deaf-Hearing Integration. This very successful medium sized charity influenced the likes of Friends for the Young Deaf (FYD) and Deafax to set up their own charities and use the same philosophy of deaf and hearing people working together through Total Communication.

David always called himself a “pioneer”, and spent many years of his life encouraging deaf people with his positive mantra: “You can do it!.”

David was the driving force behind the ground breaking Telephone Text Relay Service, originally only available to a limited number of deaf subscribers. And this unique project later became national Typetalk Relay Service, and our lives were transformed, we now had access 24/7, we could even order a pizza on Christmas Day if we wanted!

There were many other innovative projects, that we now take for granted, but back then they were ground breaking, and as always, David was instrumental in this, often taking a back seat, and if others took up the idea, so what!  at the end it benefited deaf people, that was David’s motto

Dr Terry Riley OBE, the Chair of the BDA, says: “I have been honoured to have witnessed the pioneering work of David Hyslop up close and he will be sorely missed. In my time at BBC TV See Hear, I interviewed him about his ground breaking projects at Breakthrough Trust. They were unforgettable times at Roughmour Centre, seeing so many individuals gaining a greater understanding and knowledge about working with deaf people.

“For me, David was much more than a pioneer, a man of vision, he also had a wicked sense of humour! I worked with him on many occasions when we were both sign language assessor for the old CACDP Level 3 exam, and with one instance the candidate came into the room and started signing, but all the time they looked up at the ceiling, and not once did they make eye contact with either of us, I am still to this day, not sure if he was frightened of us, well we did look so stern. David was very professional, his eyes totally focused on the candidate, I was pinching myself. At the end, David said many thanks you may go now with a serene smile and straight face. Once the candidate went out of the room we both fell into hysterics. This demonstrated he had a human side, as he knew it was difficult time, the candidate was so nervous, and he played his part as the headmaster.

“David always made people feel relaxed and it was a joy to work with him, I have no hesitation in calling him one of the great Deaf Icons of the 20th century. We are now benefiting from his visionary work and future deaf generations will look back and say Thanks David you made the world much better place. His achievements, live on both written and recorded!

“His epitaph and legacy has to be, he gave each and every one of us the confidence to break down the communication, we all face join our everyday lives, and made us aware it was a two way commitment deaf and hearing people working together for a better world without communication barriers.

“Our sympathies go out to David’s daughter (Judith), son (Christopher) and two grandchildren.”

David Hyslop started as Field Officer in 1971 when Breakthrough Trust Deaf-Hearing Group became a registered charity. Later he became Trust Director, Chairman of the Board and finally as President, over 40 years unselfishly serving for Breakthrough (now deafPLUS).

He will be always remembered as one of first deaf people to use “textphone” in the UK. In 1973, first Phonetype system TTY (textphone) call in the UK between Andrew Kenyon and David Hyslop. This led to develop and launch of “Vistel” in 1980, again another launch of “Vistel II” in 1987. His achievements were so amazing, name few of many – Total Communication Syllabus in 1983 and new Mobile Advisory Service in 1984. He was awarded an OBE in 1996 for his service to deaf people.