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We are the Consortium of Higher Education Support Services with Deaf Students (CHESS). Our mission is to increase choice, access and quality of provision for deaf and hard of hearing students entering and studying in Higher Education.

About us

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 email 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.

Our aims:

  • To promote and disseminate good practice in supporting deaf and hard of hearing students.
  • To support all Higher Education Institutions in developing good practice.


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

For access to resources related to:

  • Assessment and exams
  • English as a second langue
  • Support for deaf students
  • Guidance for assessors
  • Guidance for teachers and tutors
  • Roles and job descriptions
  • Work placements 

For access to the resources, please email Lynne Barnes


Membership of CHESS is open to everyone – especially if you have an interest in supporting deaf students within Higher Education. If you are interested in getting involved, you can join CHESSFORUM, a discussion list for those supporting our aims and with an interest in this area of work.

To join CHESSFORUM, visit the Jisc mailing list website and click ‘subscribe’. You will need to provide a valid email address, and set a password. Once you are subscribed, you will receive any emails that are sent between members of the forum.

Planning group

Our planning group is made up of a small number of volunteers from various organisations 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 CHESSFORUM and to feedback on new policy and practice which will be shared with the wider membership. In summary, we:

  • Organise meetings and plan the content.
  • Act as a focal point for communication with outside agencies.
  • Provide representation on other groups if requested.
  • Oversee and encourage furthering of the CHESS principles.

I am Principal Lecturer in BSL & Deaf Studies at the University of Central Lancashire 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.


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 (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.


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.

I am the MD of Total Communication (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.


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.