As part of the VN Futures Diversity, Inclusivity and Widening Participation Working Group’s equity campaign, Meghan Durno RVN has written a blog about her own experiences as a deaf person, highlighting that there is not a one-size-fits-all, cookie cutter approach to providing access. It is important to ask those who are deaf or hard of hearing exactly how they communicate as everyone has different needs or preferences. Meghan provides tools for those providing in person and online CPD, showing how they can adapt to be inclusive of deaf people and ensure everyone has the opportunity to learn in a way that suits them.

As Macauly mentioned in his blog, there has been a recent surge of empowerment and interest in the deaf community which gives me goosebumps and a great sense of pride! Throughout my childhood, my friends and I would be stared at when we signed in public, subtitled tv shows were limited, there was a lack of deaf awareness and life was generally not accessible for many people. Attitudes towards and stereotypes of deaf people are often negative, even to this day. Many deaf people are approached and have offers of prayer for them. When hearing people are informed of their deafness they are sometimes met with sympathetic looks and “I’m so sorry”. Attitudes, however, have improved vastly over the years.

Now I can go to a museum and most of the videos on display are captioned, or I can pick up a device and watch a BSL (British Sign Language) translated version of each video/display. Many deaf actors are landing themselves leading roles in films, adverts and theatres. Interpreters are present at many major events such as festivals and concerts.

This has a lot to do with the hard work and campaigning behind the scenes by organisations such as Performance Interpreting, Deaf Talent Collective and Theatre Sign, to name a few, as well as the deaf community itself for their tireless campaigning. Despite growing up in a deaf family where there was no question that the world was my oyster and my disability would never be a hindrance, I rarely saw people like me on tv.

Many hearing people, are both fascinated and horrified that many deaf people still struggle to access simple everyday things, and constantly have to fight for access. They want to make a difference but are unsure of what they can do to make their corner of their industry more accessible for deaf people. Here are tips on how you could improve access in 3 areas within the veterinary industry, which are transferable to any other organisation/group you are involved with.

The key thing to remember is that not every deaf person cannot hear and not every deaf person uses sign language so providing access for the whole spectrum is important.


Loop systems should be installed and functioning, and deaf people should be sat within range of the loop system so that their hearing aid/cochlear can pick it up.

Reserve seats at the front for deaf and disabled people.

Give information handouts – Knowing about topics before they come up helps with understanding context.

Have roaming BSL interpreters so that a deaf person attending congress can book their own interpreter to ‘roam’ with them as they choose which talk to attend. Deaf people would need to inform the congress of their requirements beforehand so a sufficient number of interpreters can be booked for this.

Note takers are extremely useful as many deaf people can’t listen and take notes at the same time.

Have live captions as not every deaf person uses sign language. Many deaf people, myself included prefer captions when receiving information via tv, theatre or a talk. Interestingly, when information is complex and the interpreter is able to translate the content well, I prefer to utilise an interpreter as I absorb the information better than if I were to read it. Providing all forms of access is important so the deaf person has autonomy over how they receive information.


Interpreter – Deaf people can state whether or not they need an interpreter and this should be provided on screen. If it is a Zoom/Microsoft Teams type CPD then they can be invited into the meeting and interpret from there.

Live captioning within Teams or other available programs. Bear in mind the captions aren’t always accurate but if the speaker has a good microphone and speaks clearly then this improves the captions. Microsoft Teams is the best programme to use as the deaf person can switch on live captions on their own screen for any meeting. With Zoom, the host has to enable captioning first before sending out the meeting link – without this, the deaf person cannot switch on their captions.

Pre-captioning videos if the CPD is pre-recorded. An alternative is putting the script on the slides, if one if being followed. However, both do not allow for ad-libbing or conversation.

Information handout prior to the course starting. I often find that having handouts containing summaries helps with information retention. This is so I can read over it before and after, as I spend a lot of mental energy focusing during the course and oftentimes don’t retain information as well as I could.

Regular breaks if it is a long live-CPD course. This allows for rest and avoidance of lipreading/concentration fatigue.

Accessibility in veterinary practice

Use a quiet room to speak to deaf clients. Background noise makes it hard for us to understand speech.

Use a video relay service such as Sign Video or Sign Live. They provide on-demand interpreting services. This requires a contract, and ipads are provided with it.

Provide contact options via text, email or video call.

Information gather before the consultation via the method of contact most suitable for the deaf client

Book a longer consultation slot so there is sufficient time to explain and clarify information provided.

Write things down, especially if the advice or explanation is complicated.

Provide material in the form of handouts, YouTube links or videoing yourself carrying out the task they need to do at home eg. wound dressing or subcutaneous fluid therapy.

Be patient and show your willingness to be stopped if they haven’t not understood. This will create a more relaxed environment.

Do not stand in front of a bright window, cover your mouth, over-enunciate or pace around – this makes lipreading more difficult.

Learn basic signs and gestures

Organise deaf awareness training. This can be arranged in-house and provided by organisations such as Remark! And Royal Association for the Deaf.

Many of the above components can also be applied to working with deaf colleagues. Working in busy and loud environments can be exhausting, isolating and frustrating. Deafness is often an invisible disability and many hearing people forget so it is important to remember. Involve your deaf colleague as much as you can – tell them what the group are conversing about if you see that they are not participating. They may be ok with not being involved as they are busy or need a break, or they may feel overwhelmed and unable to follow along. I definitely experience concentration fatigue and find it hard, as a head nurse, to constantly have a stream of information directed at me. I make this clear to my team that some days, especially towards the end of the day, I will struggle.

When someone asks me how they can communicate with me, or how they can get my attention, what my access requirements are, it is like I hear an angelic chorus and my stars become aligned. The burden of communication, which had rested entirely on me, is immediately halved. Such a simple gesture goes a long way so don’t be afraid to ask!

Special mention to APBC who are very passionate about providing accessible CPD and are working on consistently improving their access for a wide range of disabilities. Below are a list of a few organisations that are doing a fantastic job of providing access, deaf awareness training and resources to signpost if you need further information:

  • Performance Interpreting
  • Deaf Talent Collective
  • Theatre Sign
  • Remark!
  • Royal Association for the Deaf
  • British Deaf Association
  • National Deaf Children’s Society
  • Action Deafness

Meghan Durno RVN