Deaf human rights activist recognised by Heriot-Watt



Colin Allen Honorary Grad
Honorary Graduate Colin Allen

An ambassador for human rights of deaf and hard of hearing people whose contributions to the Deaf Community was today recognised with an honorary degree from Heriot-Watt University.

Colin Allen was presented with a Doctor of Literature from the University during its Summer Graduations 2022 for contributions to the Deaf Community in both his home state and more broadly, Australia. 

Mr Allen was selected for the academic honour in recognition of his career as a prominent world leader and expert in Deaf community development, human rights, and advocacy

After receiving his Honorary Degree, Dr Allen said: “I am both thrilled and honoured to receive this honorary degree in recognition of my work focussing on Deaf Human and Sign Language Rights in which my goal was and continues to be contributing to the empowerment of every deaf person around the world. The Global Deaf Community remains committed to securing legal recognition of sign languages. This is an ongoing fight as only 40% of governments worldwide have fulfilled their obligation to confer legal recognition on their local national sign language.”

Colin is a Visiting Lecturer at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). In his role at RIT, he developed a course titled “International Deaf Leadership and Community Development” which focuses on the human rights of deaf and hard of hearing people. Colin is also a contributor to the Center for International Educational Outreach. Colin served as the President of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) from 2011 to 2019.

Prior to this, Colin served as a board member for WFD from 2003 to 2011. Additionally, Colin served as Chair of the International Disability Alliance (IDA). He guided and represented the WFD and IDA in their engagement with the United Nations System and with other international human rights agencies and international development organizations.

Colin has advanced the human rights of deaf people and persons with disabilities for over 40 years through political, professional, and social involvement. His contributions to the Deaf Community began locally in his home state of New South Wales, Australia and then broadened to encompass the national Deaf Community and the international realm.

Assistant Professor Robert Adam, School of Social Sciences and Languages and Intercultural Studies, gave Colin's laureation at a ceremony held within Oriam at the Edinburgh campus.

Speaking after his award, Assistant Professor Adam said: “I am delighted to know that Colin Allen has been awarded an honorary degree from Heriot-Watt University. It is gratifying to see his many years of work as a deaf role model, activist and leader in deaf communities around the world recognised.”

Colin has also addressed international and national conferences as keynote presenter and has presented workshops on issues related to human rights for both the Deaf Community and for persons with disability in more than 70 countries.

In 2018, Colin was made a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2018 Queen's Birthday Honours List. This Award was in recognition of Colin's extensive service to his local Deaf Community in Sydney; to his national Deaf Community of Australia; and to the international Deaf Community, through development work in Albania, Cambodia, Kosovo and Serbia, and through service as Board member and President of the WFD, as well as Board member and Chair of the IDA.

He is one of four distinguished recipients presented with honorary degrees this week.

A total of 10 graduation ceremonies are being held at Heriot-Watt University between Friday 17 June and Friday, 24 June marking the academic achievement of students from the School of Social Sciences, the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences, the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure & Society, the School of Textiles & Design, and the School of Mathematical & Computer Sciences.

Graduations ceremonies at the Dubai and Malaysia campuses will be held in July.


Susan Kerr