Words by Smiley Team
In 2020, then-15-year-old Tyrese Dibba from Birmingham donned braces and an orange tie to take on the charismatic character of ‘Mr Tyrese’. Deaf and partially sighted, Tyrese helped the UK disability charity Sense offer free British Sign Language (BSL) lessons during the UK’s first lockdown.
Since then, he has won two awards for his efforts and will now star in Sense Sign School, a subscription-based lesson pack launched by the charity today. In 2021, Tyrese was recognised for his work engaging tens of thousands of people, receiving the Stephen Sutton Inspiration Award in the Pride of Birmingham Awards. He also won a Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award.
Now, as part of the Sense Sign School, Tyrese appears as an animated version of Mr Tyrese in digital lessons. These come as part of a pack sent in the post which also includes illustrated flashcards, a conversation guide leaflet and digital lesson pages.
Having benefitted from the charity’s support since he was six months old, Tyrese is pleased to be able to give back and build on the charity’s positive impact. “I love the idea of continuing my work in animated form, supporting more people to learn to BSL," he said. "Deaf people shouldn’t be excluded. You should be able to chat to everyone, regardless of disability.”
While he plays Sense Sign School’s headteacher, others join him in animated form as additional school staff. They include 18-year-old George Cook, from Birmingham who plays one of the teachers.
Like Tyrese, George uses BSL and has CHARGE syndrome, a complex genetic syndrome that results in many different difficulties from birth including difficulties hearing. He is also autistic and has had support from Sense for over five years.
He, too, is pleased to participate in the animation, saying: “More people using BSL gives me more independence, because the more people who can help me, the better.”
George’s mother, Emma, added: “I’m very proud that George is involved in this, as the more people who can sign the better. Deaf people shouldn’t be isolated in this day and age.”
LEARN BSL: To learn British Sign Language and make society a more open space for people who depend on BSL, sign up to Sense Sign School.
DONATE: Support disability charity Sense to continue supporting disabled people like Tyrese and George. Donate to Sense.