The Consortium of Higher Education Support Services with Deaf Students (CHESS)

CHESS would like to thank UCLan for hosting their website.

Our Mission Statement

“To increase choice, access and quality of provision for deaf and hard of hearing students entering and studying at Higher Education.”


a) To promote and disseminate good practice in supporting deaf and hard of hearing students
b) To support all Higher Education Institutions in developing good practice

Working practices


  • has a cross-institutional Planning Group with a Convener to co-ordinate and organise the work of CHESS.
  • holds meetings open to all, to develop sector expertise on supporting deaf and hard of hearing students in HE.
  • responds to requests for the discussion of issues.
  • disseminates information e.g. minutes of meetings, sector developments through a mail-base list and website.
  • consults with the list and other interested groups to provide responses to issues relating to the Mission Statement.

CHESS is a voluntary organisation of higher education professionals working with and supporting deaf and hard of hearing students. Anyone is welcome to join; members are affiliated via CHESSFORUM ( a discussion list, where issues and questions are raised regarding the support of deaf students. This allows members to exchange knowledge and ideas promptly and effectively in a mutually discursive environment. CHESS is co-ordinated by a Planning Group. Information about Planning Group members can be found below.

Members of the Planning Group have a wide range of knowledge and experience of practice and policy development in the field. The Planning Group meets regularly to ensure sector-wide issues, practices and policies are being addressed. This information is fed back via CHESSFORUM and the website. CHESS is well-known within the sector and has hosted numerous successful conferences and open meetings over the years; it is hoped that this will continue with vigour in the future.

Joining Instructions

Visit Under ‘Find Lists’, type ‘CHESS’, Click on ‘CHESSFORUM’

Information and Guidelines

We have put together some examples of useful information and guidelines that we have gathered from a number of universities who support deaf students. Clearly these resources are tailored to individual institutions, but you should be able to find common themes, information and advice which you can use within your own particular institution.

If you have any useful resources that you would like to share with the group please contact Lynne Barnes:

Roles and Job Descriptions for:

Communication Support Worker

Electronic Notetakers


Notetaker Description 1

Notetaker Description 2

General information : supporting deaf students

General Guidelines

Effective Communication Guidelines

Film produced by a cochlear implant user at the University of Oxford

Supporting the Achievement of Deaf Young People in Higher Education

Guidance for teachers/tutors

Teaching Strategies to use with Deaf students

Teaching Strategies to use with Deaf students - Advice for lecturers in Higher Education

Marking Deaf Students’ Work

Working with deaf students in the teaching environment

Working with Deaf Students - Group Work

Assessments and exams

Assessment of Deaf Students Work - general guidance for aural and oral assessment

UCLan Policy on Deaf Students and Assessments

Assessments delivered in BSL : Some Guidelines

Learning , Teaching and Assessment

English as a second language

Language , Literacy and the Deaf student

Working with Language Tutors: Guidelines for tutors

Working with Language Tutors: Guidelines for students

Work placements

Working with Deaf Students on Professional/Clinical Placement

Working with deaf students on paid placement

Finance and funding

Disabled Students Allowance

Student Finance England

Access to Work

Making HE Deaf-Friendly

York St John: Position statement regarding making HE more deaf-friendly

Guidance for Assessors

Resource for assessing Deaf and Hard of Hearing students


Membership of CHESS is open to everyone, especially if you have an interest in supporting deaf students within higher education. It is an informal group, which is largely structured around a discussion list. If you are interested in getting involved in CHESS, you can join the CHESSFORUM, a discussion list for those supporting our aims and with an interest in this area of work.

To join:

Visit the website
Under options please click on subscribe and enter your own e-mail and a password. You should receive any e-mails that are sent between the forum.

CHESS Planning Group

CHESS is run by a Planning Group, a small number of volunteers from various institutions around the country. We meet on a quarterly basis to discuss issues which might need addressing on a national level, to organise national events, to generate questions and answers for the Forum and to feedback on new policy and practice which will be shared with the wider membership. In summary, it is the responsibility of this group to:

  • organise meetings and plan the content
  • to act as a focal point for communication with outside agencies
  • to provide representation on other groups if requested
  • to oversee and encourage furthering of the CHESS Principles

Who Are We? Contacts:

Lynne Barnes (UCLan) [Convenor]

I am Principal Lecturer in BSL & Deaf Studies at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston. I co-ordinate the BSL & Deaf Studies team and teach on the undergraduate degree programmes. I also work part-time for Disability Services as an Adviser for Deaf Students. I am a former Teacher of the Deaf and support tutor for deaf students in both F.E. and H.E. My research interests lie in issues of access to higher education and to employment for deaf students. I am a National Teaching Fellow and train both Specialist Notetakers for Deaf Students and Specialist Support Professionals for Deaf Students.  

Bryan Coleman (University of Sheffield)

I am the Head of the Disability and Dyslexia Support Service at the University of Sheffield. My main experience of working with deaf and hard of hearing students came as a support worker co-ordinator at Sheffield Hallam University several years ago. Since then I have worked as a disability adviser at Brunel University and deputy manager of the Disability Support Office at Manchester University. I gained BSL Stage 2 in 2002 but, unfortunately, rarely get the chance to use it now – Sheffield University has approximately 90 students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Natalya Dell (University of Birmingham)

Natalya Dell (DSA Needs Assessor and freelancer) I currently work as a Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) needs assessor working with students with all impairments, but a specialist interest in deaf students. Prior to that I worked for 8 years at an English university as a disabled students' adviser supporting individual students and providing advice and guidance to the university and having specialist interests in sensory impairments and assistive technology. As a deaf person myself I know what it is like to navigate the world and education systems, wrangling DSA, Access to Work, communication support as well as wider issues like dealing with audiology and keeping hearing aids working. I have a Postgraduate diploma in Disability Studies from Leeds.

James Fitzgerald (Surrey County Council)

I am the Professional Lead for the F/HE 16+ department within Physical & Sensory Support at Surrey County Council, which provides a specialist access and support service to deaf and visually-impaired students in universities and colleges across Surrey. Prior to this position, I worked at City Lit for 22 years in different specialist support roles and then as joint head of the Centre for Deaf Education which included management of the Deaf Access and Interpreting Service. I am a qualified BSL/English interpreter, a trained NVQ interpreting assessor and trustee board member for NRCPD. 

Judith Hutchinson ( Total Communication)

I am the MD of TC and have been for 25 years! We provide services to our Deaf community, Deaf students in both FE and HE and Deaf people in the workplace.
We are incredibly passionate about we do and the community we serve.
We are a Disability Confident Employer with over 20% of our team having a disability. We have a wonderful workforce of support workers, TSLI’s, RSLI’s and advocates.
We are proud of what we do every day.
Equally, I am proud to be a part of CHESS planning group and the amazing work it does.

Paul Kent (Birmingham City University)

I am a Disability Adviser based at Seacole Building at City South campus of Birmingham City University. Although I specialise in supporting deaf students and students with hearing loss I also work closely with students with other disabilities. I advise faculties regarding reasonable adjustments which can be made in the learning environment to assist students with disabilities. I further assist and advise students regarding accessing available funding for support such as Disabled Student Allowances (DSA).

Helen Young (Oxford University)

I am Deputy Head of the Disability Advisory Service (DAS) and Sensory Impairment Specialist at the University of Oxford. I am also Head of the Oxford University Assessment Centre (OUAC). Prior to this, I worked for nine years in the Voluntary Sector, including as Regional Manager of Community Support Services for Sense (a national deafblind charity) and Manager of a local charity supporting sensory and multi-sensory impaired people.

I have a Postgraduate Diploma in Deafblind Studies, an Undergraduate Degree in Psychology (BSc Hons), a BSL qualification (Level 2, Signature) and I am a fluent Deafblind Manual signer.  I have been a member of the CHESS Planning Group (Consortium of Higher Education Support Services with Deaf Students) since 2012. I am also a Director of the National Association of Disability Practitioners (NADP) and a Trustee of a local charity (CRCB) which offers support for people with sensory impairments.


Workshops and Events

18th March and 5th April 2016
Assessing Deaf Students’ Needs in HE – Do It Once; Do It Right - CHESS