Dr. Terry Riley OBE, Honorary Board member of the World Federation of the Deaf passed away at his home in Ashford, Kent, UK on October 9, 2019. The WFD expresses its deepest condolences to his family and the Deaf Community of the United Kingdom on his passing.
Dr. Riley OBE served on the Board of the World Federation of the Deaf from 2011 to 2019 and was awarded the title of Honorary Board member at the XX General Assembly of the World Federation of the Deaf in July 2019. He received the WFD’s First Class International Solidarity Merit Award at the XVIII World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf for his extraordinary achievements on behalf of the global deaf community. Dr. Riley also served as a Board member of the International Disability Alliance.
Dr. Riley was born on 19th June 1944 in Manchester, England to deaf parents and grew up as a native user of British Sign Language. His longstanding activism on behalf of deaf communities began already when he was 15 years old, when he became Secretary of the Manchester Deaf Club. Thus began a 63 year career as an advocate for deaf people’s rights.
In addition to his service to the global deaf community, Dr. Riley was also active in the United Kingdom and at the European level. Dr. Riley was Chair of the British Deaf Association for three terms, from 2008 to 2018. Capping a lifetime of service to the British deaf community and the British Deaf Association in roles such as Branch Secretary, Branch Chairman, Area Council Chair, as a member of the Executive Council. He was also active in the European Union of the Deaf as Vice President from 1991-1994 and Board Member from 2001-2005.
Dr. Riley was a pioneer in deaf television. He was Editor and Producer of BBC2’s See Hear television program for many years. In 2008, Dr Riley became Chair of the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust (BSL Zone) for eight years until his retirement in 2012. This was the capstone to a long and illustrious career in television and media.
Terry was able to spend time with his beloved family in his last days. Before he passed away, he wrote on social media, “I am so gifted to have a wonderful family and group of friends.” In an interview with BBC, he made clear family was always his first priority.
Terry also saw the deaf community as his extended family and the testimonies pouring out from all over the global deaf community show how many lives he has touched and how many people he has inspired.
Terry’s life was about service to the deaf community. In his last days, he took the time to make a video message to the WFD Board and staff whom he served with. I want to share some of his final words to us, with you, the people who were a part of his community for all his life and to whom he dedicated 60 years of work.