Making salons accessible for everyone – why the team at Bliss are learning British sign language

by | 23 Mar 2022

On a mission to make salons welcoming and accessible for everyone, Nick Tedd, director of Bliss Hairdressing, shares how they are raising awareness for the deaf community with team training and teaching British sign language 

 

Following actress Rose Ayling-Ellis’s Strictly triumph and in a week where it has been announced that British Sign Language (BSL) is set to gain formal recognition as a language, it’s never been more important to offer a welcoming salon environment for those in the deaf community. Making the salon space accessible for both deaf clients and staff has been a clear priority for Bliss Hairdressing in Loughborough and Nottingham, not least because Nick Tedd who heads up the group has hereditary hearing loss himself.

“I use hearing aids, Bluetooth technology, lip reading and basic BSL – I passed my level one during lockdown,” says Nick. “I’m a volunteer and on the board of trustees for the National Association of Deafened People (NADP) and another organisation called Hear Together. As an activist and member, I campaign and raise awareness about deafness and better access for people with hearing loss, so it’s been a natural process that I invest in deaf awareness training for my teams, as they are used to communicating with me.” 

Nick is determined to make sure Bliss leads the way with the change they want to see across the industry, resulting in better connection and communication for everyone. “The theme at Bliss pre-pandemic was ‘Better mental health’, which in action meant supporting and taking better care of each other and our clients,” explains Nick. “While this continues today, this year’s theme is ‘Everyone is welcome at Bliss.’ We do not judge anyone on ability, size, gender, sexual orientation or skin tone. The salons are both accessible and we have a diverse team and clientele.”

Coming up to a year ago, Bliss also welcomed Natasha to the team, who is deaf, has a cochlear implant and is fluent in BSL. Together, Natasha and Nick decided to do a two-hour session at their team day this month. “We had Wella Professionals in the morning for a colour workshop, and in the afternoon we taught the team the BSL alphabet, numbers and colours,” Nick adds. “We also recapped deaf awareness training and stressed the importance of communication and connection, as this is what many people who are deaf or living with hearing loss feel robbed of. The team were also taught basic signs and symbols for words and terms used commonly in the salons, such as colour quantities and formulas, time, refreshments etc. I sourced resources from Hear Together and we ended up creating a fun workshop that everyone loved. This was just the start, as we could only do so much in two hours.” 

Salon team on deaf awareness and British sign language training course

Salon team learning British Sign Language

Salon team practising British sign language

“I think hairdressing, like all creative industries, is very visual,” adds Nick. “I’ve always communicated visually with the team and clients through use of hair images and mood boards. It fits right in with the Bliss theme for 2022 and is already at our fingertips – literally! For other hair professionals also wanting to learn sign language or encourage greater diversity, invest in a deaf awareness training sessions with basic signing. There’s also a lot of resources online via the two organisations I am part of, and of course using YouTube.” 

Nick highlights that BSL and deaf awareness training is not just beneficial for those impacted by hearing loss, and in fact, it also builds on many of the concepts fundamental to hairdressing itself. “Disability awareness, diverse and inclusion are huge at Bliss,” he explains. “80 per cent of what hairdressers do is nothing to do with a haircut, it’s how we make people feel! To me, it’s just an extension of what we already do and getting the team together to discuss this is the starting point. Our younger team members made some great contributions to this and came up with topics I hadn’t thought about like the benefits for those with neurodivergencies like autism and ADHD.

“Setting the time aside is a starting point,” he adds. “I’m still buzzing from how positive the team have been since doing this, and am proud that  we are setting the standard. I have a personal mission that helps me keep things in perspective when I struggle – if I can educate just one person each day to have better deaf awareness after interacting with me, then I’m doing a good job and leaving things better for myself and others next time.” 

For more information about Nick’s experience living with hearing loss, follow his Instagram for regular updates. 


 

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