About Us

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

CHESS would like to thank UCLan for hosting their website.







Further information about the event is available in the 'Workshops and Events' section below





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 which is nominated every 2 years. Information about Planning Group members can be found elsewhere on this website.

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 bi-monthly 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 Division of BSL & Deaf Studies team and teach on the degree programmes. I also work part-time for Student 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 for deaf students.  

Margaret Burke (Sheffield Hallam)
I am the Senior Disability Adviser with particular responsibility for deaf students at Sheffield Hallam University. I've worked in the field of deafness for 22 years (14 at Hallam) supporting and interpreting for children and adults of all ages predominantly, although not exclusively, within the educational environment. Sheffield Hallam has a strong reputation in the support of deaf students and has over 100 students across the range of deafness.

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 80 students who are deaf or hard of hearing, but currently no users of BSL.

Natalya Dell (University of Birmingham)
Since 2008 I have been a disabled students' adviser at The University of Birmingham working with students who have physical and sensory impairments to ensure they can access their education as fully as possible. I coordinate several projects designed to increase the inclusive design of the university for disabled students. I am partially deaf and disabled myself so interested in how services have developed since I was an undergraduate. Also in common with many deaf and disabled students I have additional responsibilities in my life dealing with audiology, radio aids and managing my disability, communication and language support. I am about become a student again studying for a Masters in Disability Studies at the University of Leeds, which requires me to engage with student disability services and the Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) process.

James Fitzgerald (City Lit)
I have worked at City Lit for the last 20 years in different roles: as a notetaker, lipspeaker, communication support worker, language support tutor and as a qualified BSL interpreter. I am an experienced deaf awareness trainer and qualified NVQ interpreting assessor. I now manages City Lit’s ‘deaf access and interpreting’ department, which provides a range of specialist support workers to deaf students studying in further and higher education in London, as well as to deaf people in employment. I have founded and run the annual Watch Your Language conference for language support professionals, and am jointly responsible for coordinating City Lit’s Centre for Deaf Education.

Sheenagh Hull (University of Leeds) 
I’m a Disability Coordinator at the University of Leeds with a specialism in working with deaf & hard of hearing students. I also work with all disabled students in two Faculties (Medicine/Health and Environment). I have a particular interest in student assessments across the University (eg exams, OSCEs). In the past, I’ve worked in ‘deaf education’ across the age range, in schools, FE and HE. I’ve also been a DSA assessor, and registered interpreter.

Judith Hutchinson (Reading College) 
I am the Managing Director of Total Communication. TC has provided a service to d/Deaf students across Berkshire and the South-East for nearly 20 years. (Education is not our sole focus but it is predominant) I employ CSW's , Interpreters and note takers, to enable me to provide a service which matches the needs of all d/Deaf students whatever the academic level. I am passionate about what I do and the service my company provides. I am currently building my interpreting portfolio and intend to be qualified at the turn of this year (2012/13). I passed the old Stage 3 back in 1996 but missed my opportunity to carry on and become qualified back then due to babies!

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 and have been in post for eight years. 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 (University of Oxford) 
I am a Senior Disability Officer at the University of Oxford, based within the Disability Advisory Service. My role involves advising students with all types of disability and coordinating study related support. I have worked in the field of sensory and dual sensory impairment for the past thirteen years and liaise with Colleges and Departments regarding communication, support and access considerations for students with sensory impairments, including any necessary reasonable adjustments. I am responsible for delivering sensory impairment awareness raising training and information seminars for staff and students as required. I have a Diploma in Deafblind Studies and a BSL level 2 qualification, I am also a proficient Deafblind Manual signer and a trained Deafblind Intervenor.

Workshops and Events

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

Further Information

March evaluation form summary (.docx)

18th June 2012
‘One Size Does Not Fit All’ – Assessing Deaf Students’ Needs in HE

Useful documents from the conference:

Frequently Asked Question

Q Does anyone have any experience of successfully getting Access to Work funding for a Deaf student on work placement from university?

There is some reference in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education- Chapter B4 student support etc:

Where a work placement, fieldwork or practical work is part of a programme of study (whether optional or compulsory), institutions should consider the nature and extent of reasonable adjustments that are needed to enable the participation of disabled students. In the context of such discussions, students should be given advice on the different funding streams available to support their learning in these contexts (for example, Access to Work).

When I tried to get AtW to pay for the interpreting/palantypy costs for these students they said:

AtW Adviser: "I understand the reasoning for not providing support for STUDENT whilst she is distance learning. However, on the residential week the STUDENT will be attending the university campus and using your facilities.

Whilst the STUDENT may not have access to the disabled student fund [I think this means DSA] s/he would fall under the duty of care for access/services under the 2010 equality act - ""The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on both employers and service providers to make reasonable adjustments.
…...Universities and higher education colleges have an obligation to make provision for disabled students.

There are many things universities can do to help disabled students.....this could be someone to:

  • interpret words into sign language
  • take notes for you
  • write down your words - for example in an exam
  • help you get around

Access to Work would not normally cover support in educational establishments where there is a duty of care for the university/college to provide that support and I would consider that whilst the STUDENT is using your campus/facilities that duty of care does exist for the university."

So in our case they were differentiating between "on our campus" and seminars which were taught somewhere else.

Access to Work cannot be used for every kind of work placement.

Specifically the student needs to have a contract of employment (or at least an offer letter as evidence) and the work must pay at least the National Minimum Wage.

The person must also not be on Incapacity Benefit or ESA (which some disabled students are) although there are specific exceptions like Work Trials.

The main reason students tend not to be able to apply for Access to Work is if their placement is an internship or other voluntary work.

Where students are on a sandwich course and they have a paid placement, they have had no issues getting AtoW support including interpreters for interviews for their work placement element. AtoW does not cover unpaid placements but please see the link for when they can get support covered by DSA:

Not successfully no.

This academic year I had two/three deaf/HOH students on a teacher of the deaf course whose fees are paid by their employer. However they were both eligible for DSA which had surprised me as their course is 1 taught week a year + 6 single day seminars - the rest is distance learning. I think students on this course had been refused DSA in the past.


Q Are any charities or other funding streams (apart from the university budget) that can be used to support Deaf students support once their DSA is spent. Has anyone had any success with this?

Students who have mandatory professional/clinical placements their support is organised by the institution and paid for via DSA.

At some Universities, where students have exceeded overspend they are asked to apply for ALF but if no funds can be drawn from ALF then the department funds it.


Q How do others address the issue of whether seminars/lectures require one or two interpreters.
Do you provide co-working at all?

If you do, how do you decide which classes warrant this approach?

In our experience it really is a case by case, class by class basis and can come down to guidance from the interpreters, along with working with departments to ensure breaks are factored in where possible. We’ve sometimes followed a ‘rule’ of less than 2 hours then single working is suggested, and we find some signers are more flexible to work alone than others too. If we have to use an agency they rarely would send more than one person.