Declan's Story

In 2018, Exeter Deaf Academy became the first Deaf education provision to offer Supported Internships, a program which helps to prepare our Post-16 students for working life and facilitates their progression to paid employment.

Students like Declan, below, bring a huge range of benefits to an employer, and Supported Internships allow both employers and students to explore the world of work from a Deaf perspective.


Declan, who is 18 years old and profoundly deaf, has been working for a major supermarket chain on a weekly basis for ten consecutive months. Declan spends 3 days a week in-store, sharing his time on the shop floor at two busy supermarket branches in Exeter city. His work includes stock replenishment and customer care, learning the day-to-day skills needed in a retail environment. He also attends education at Exeter Deaf Academy, studying Maths, English, British Sign Language and Independent Living Skills.

Declan says: ‘I was nervous about starting my placement, but now I really enjoy it. The staff have been really welcoming and friendly. I have been teaching them a few signs, which they are now using when they talk to me. The Managers in both branches are very helpful and are relaxed in conversations with me. They have helped me to learn each new part of the roles I have been given and that has helped to boost my confidence. I am enjoying working on the tills and this is helping me learn more about money management and handling cash within the work setting.’

Declan has an assigned job coach at Exeter Deaf Academy who supports him in the workplace with job skills and communication. Declan’s first language is British Sign Language (BSL), and his Supported Internship placement allows him to explore his use of BSL in the wider hearing community.  As well as communicating with hearing people, he explores his Deaf identity in both the hearing and Deaf world.

Declan’s job coach Will said: ‘Declan’s communication skills with both the customers and his work colleagues have greatly improved He is much more confident now and I am really impressed with what he has achieved in such a short time. He is clearly now part of the staff team and is enjoying himself immensely.’

The supermarket has also benefitted from Declan’s time with them. Declan’s colleagues have commented how polite and helpful Declan is, and how hard he works. His store manager said: ‘Declan is willing to get stuck in, and has gained the admiration of his peers very quickly. It’s as if he has been here for years!’

Another colleague said: ‘Declan is very keen to learn and polite. He is quick at picking things up and remembering what he has learnt. He seemed to really enjoy himself.’

Supported Internships are a reciprocal way for employers to increase the diversity of their workplace, and for young deaf people workers to gain real life experience in the world of work. Exeter Deaf Academy’s Work-Related Learning Coordinator, Emma Bird said:

‘Welcoming a Deaf colleague into the workplace can help to enrich the culture of an entire organisation, as employees are challenged to explore new perspectives and work on their communication and cooperation skills. We find that our deaf young people tend to be extremely adaptable, with a talent for bridging communication and cultural gaps, and strong problem solving skills’.

Declan’s mum Sharon is really impressed with his progress on his Supported Internship. She said:

‘When Declan began his Internship he was very nervous and lacking in confidence. After a short period of time I noticed a change in him, as he began to excel in a new found confidence. Declan is taking great pride in his achievements and is really enjoying being a member of staff. He is also successfully using his communication skills when working with customers and is focused on providing excellent customer service at both stores. He loves his work, he takes pride in it and is excited about the future.’

Deaf Academy staff support our students when considering their next steps at the end of their Supported Internship work placement. Possible transitions at the end of include:

  • The young person transitioning to paid employment in their current role
  • The young person is offered paid employment in a similar role with a different company
  • The young person is offered paid employment in the same role and company but within their home town area
  • The young person might benefit from another year of Supported Internship and employability qualifications.

Declan says:

‘In the future I would like to stay working within a retail setting. I feel really proud of myself, as I have been working very hard and I am really enjoying being part of a team.’