A 15-year-old boy from Birmingham, who taught British Sign Language to more than 50,000 people during the first lockdown, has won a national award for his efforts.

Student Tyrese Dibba, who is deaf and partially sighted, was named ‘Young Person of the Year’ at the Sense Awards 2020.

Tyrese, who has Charge Syndrome – a rare genetic disorder which can affect many areas of the body including sight and hearing – have had support from charity Sense since he was six months old.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the teenager created a series of online videos to teach people British Sign Language (BSL) for free, which have had over 46,000 views on YouTube alone.

Thousands of people have enjoyed Tyrese’s virtual lessons as part of the ‘Sense Sign School’ campaign, which launched in May and invited the public to sign up for free online classes.

Tyrese’s charismatic performance was credited for the popularity of the campaign, which generated national headlines. Excitingly, he will be back this month with a Christmas edition of ‘Sense Sign School’.

The campaign aimed to break down communication barriers, promote understanding and tackle social isolation amongst disabled people. Loneliness is disproportionately high amongst disabled people, with one in two experiencing it every day. Sense research also shows that one in four Brits avoid conversation with disabled people because they worry about saying the wrong thing.

Teenager Tyrese Dibba has been teaching British Sign Language online during the coronavirus lockdownSense
Teenager Tyrese Dibba has been teaching British Sign Language online during the coronavirus lockdown

Speaking of his joy at receiving the award, Tyrese Dibba said: “Thank you. I’m happy I won. It was hard work to teach everyone sign but I enjoyed it!”

Tyrese’s mother Vicky Dibba added: “Ty winning this award is recognition of the hard work and time Ty put into working alongside Sense in the sign school videos.

“Ty is very aware and proud of his identity as a Deaf young person and likes sharing his language with the hearing world. What I hope is that even a quarter of the people who signed up will look at taking their learning forward and everyone now has more knowledge of two disabilities that are very often invisible.”

The Sense Awards recognise the outstanding achievements of people with complex disabilities, as well as the staff, carers, family members, volunteers and fundraisers who support them.

Over 50,000 people have benefited from Tyrese Dibba's virtual BSL lessonsSense
Over 50,000 people have benefited from Tyrese Dibba’s virtual BSL lessons

Sense Chief Executive Richard Kramer said: “Congratulations to Tyrese, our ‘Young Person of the Year’ for 2020. Tyrese is an absolute star and played a huge role in the success of our ‘Sense Sign School’ campaign.

“We can’t wait to see him teaching more sign language in the Christmas edition. Hundreds of thousands of people use British Sign Language as their first language, and if more people are open to learning it, we can ensure that less people are left out, and help to tackle loneliness and social isolation amongst disabled people.”

WATCH | Tyrese Dibba teaches BSL online:

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