International Day of Persons with Disabilities: How it feels to be a deaf person working at the Trust

Chloe Norton, senior improvement analyst, was born with hearing loss. On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, she describes her experiences as a deaf person at the Trust, and her excitement about our new staff network for persons with disabilities.

I started working at the Trust in the summer of 2019. I was born with profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. A few years ago I decided to have a cochlear implant to help me hear, but I rely heavily on lip-reading and sign language.

There have been times in my life where I’ve felt overlooked because of my disability. A friend of a friend once told me that I only got a job because the employer needed to fill a disability quota. I know he’s wrong and that I’m good at my job, but comments like this can make disabled people feel really isolated and undervalued.

This is the week of International Day of Persons with Disabilities – a reminder of why it’s so important for us to create an environment where disabled people feel welcomed and fully able to participate. There are many ways to achieve this, from making reasonable adjustments within the workplace, to creating network groups for people to connect through shared experience.

How the Trust supports me to do my job

I’m a senior improvement analyst, which means I analyse data for a number of interesting and varied projects. Because my job is largely desk-based, I haven’t needed many adjustments to be made for me – but there are a few changes the Trust made that have been really valuable.

Chloe Norton "This is the week of International Day of Persons with Disabilities – a reminder of why it’s so important for us to create an environment where disabled people feel welcomed and fully able to participate."


Everyone in my team knows and understands that I’m deaf, so they’re used to tapping me on the shoulder or waving at me to catch my attention. If someone phones for me, a colleague will answer and then pass the message on to me – though I do have a note on my email signature asking people to email me rather than phone me. The Trust also has a specific plan in place for me to evacuate the building where I work, because if the fire alarm goes off I won’t hear it.

More recently, I’ve had the support of a typist, who types up notes during large meetings so I can better participate. In smaller meetings or where I’m just with one person, I can get by using lip-reading, but it can be really challenging for me in a large meeting like our Trust-wide equality and diversity meetings. The typist is amazing – they can type about 80 words a minute!

Having a support group of peers

Having colleagues to support you is invaluable – it’s very easy for a disabled person to feel alone at work, and connecting with others in a similar position can give you a real confidence boost. It also means you have someone to reach out to for guidance and support if you’re having a tough time.

I’m really excited and proud to be chairing the Trust’s new disability network group. The group is still in its infancy but we’re ambitious about its future. We currently have a level one Disability Confident employer accreditation from the Government, which means we’ve committed to making reasonable adjustments to support people with disabilities at work. I’d be really interested in exploring how we could get further accredited, making it up to level two or even three to ensure we’re doing all we can to provide an inclusive working environment for people with disabilities. I also want to do some work around the accessibility of our hospital sites – which is fitting given the theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is ‘The Future is Accessible’.

I also want to shine a light on the amazing work our disabled staff do every day. Disabled staff bring a range of skills, life experiences and perspectives to their roles, which help us give better care to the patients we help.

This deserves to be recognised and celebrated. If you’re at the Trust and want to join the network and improve the working lives of disabled staff, please email me. If you’re reading this from elsewhere, I’d encourage you to seek out your workplace’s disability network and find out how you can get involved.

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