The Nail Tech Org Chats Discrimination, Ableism and Advice with Rachel Spry, Deaf Nail Technician

Here at the Nail Tech Org, we’re here to educate you on all things nail industry, but we wouldn’t be doing it justice if we didn’t include those topics we often shy away from. Sadly but often overlooked in our industry, disabilities and in turn, ableism are something we all need to be aware of, prepared for, and happy to work with, and to do so without a second thought.

We have had the absolute pleasure of working with and speaking to Rachel Spry, a brow artist, nail technician, beauty salon owner, who is also deaf. 

We spoke to her about her story, experiences facing discrimination, biggest inspirations and her advice to YOU reading, to help break down the barriers of disabilities in the nail industry. 

Keep scrolling to read Rachel’s story…

Rachel’s Story 

“To be honest, I never really knew what I wanted to do for my career as everything felt restricted and impossible for me, being deaf. Science was my favourite subject at school, I really would have loved to become a forensic investigator but I never went further with it as I didn’t believe it would be possible for me being deaf.”

“I didn’t have big ambitions as I felt I would never be successful. I looked into so many different careers including nursing, paramedic, midwifery etc but I just felt it wasn’t possible. This all led to me deciding to do nails at college when I was 16.”

“There were quite a few rough obstacles at the beginning of my career. I struggled to fit in a team in salons, I was neglected and excluded. I tried so hard to fit in but it’s difficult when people are so close minded and I felt like they didn’t see me as a normal person. I became very reserved and only turned up to do my job and watched the team have their chats and giggles then just went home! I would often get upset when I got home as I felt so isolated. It really affected my mental heath which got worse the longer it went on, to the point I had to leave the industry.”

“I had a change of career, working in a deaf school but it wasn’t for long as the school sadly had to close down. After applying for jobs, I got offered a job at another deaf organisation but I had a gut feeling telling me ‘no this isn’t right’… this was when I realised I was missing doing nails as it was my passion.”

“My gut was telling me to follow my passion so I turned down the job offer and decided to set up my own business as I didn’t want to work in a salon again after the stress it put on my mental health of being excluded and struggling to fit in.”

“As you can imagine, going self employed without any income and having to use my savings it was such a risky move! But with a lot of support and encouragement from my family and despite a couple of blips, I have not looked back and it was the best risky move I have ever made for myself.”

“9 years later I’m still here, my business is booming and I’m still absolutely loving it!”

Rachel’s Experience With Discrimination 

Rachel says “there have been some situations where it was aimed at my deafness and made me feel very restricted when it didn’t need to be!”

“When I was at an open day at college meeting the tutor enquiring about the beauty therapy course, she made a strong point that it would make clients very uncomfortable by having an interpreter with me. One time when I was working in a celebrity nail salon they were offering to train me as they were an educator for a huge well known brand, but they refused to let me have an interpreter as they felt that the interpreter would also learn for free?! Unbelievable.”

“Also another time, when I was completing my level 3 apprenticeship in a salon, we had to have a staff meeting once a month and I was asked to attend, but my manager wouldn’t allow an interpreter to attend for me.”

“So, I made a point that it would be pointless for me to attend as I wouldn’t be able to understand or hear what was being said, but she still insisted that I attend!”

“I sat there in that meeting for an hour, not knowing what was said, it was pointless and completely blew my mind!”

“It seems like having an interpreter seems like a bad thing to some people, when it doesn’t need to be. They are just there to be my ears and voice, and to make sure I am fully included and for me to be able to show my full character. It’s their job!”

What Should YOU Know, According To Rachel 

“Please be aware that 1 in 5 adults in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing so it’s so important to make sure everything is captioned and subtitled. It would be absolutely amazing if everyone could spare a little time to learn some basic sign language, since it will be taught as a GCSE from September 2025.”

“This is exciting but should have been done a long time ago” Rachel believes. “It’s important to check in with your fellow industry besties, students, family members or clients who you know may be deaf or have a disability, to make sure they are ok and have the support they need.”

“The industry can be an isolating place especially when they feel there is no one else that is in a similar position so it’s great to open up and spread awareness that they are not alone!”

“When I first started in the industry, I felt SO alone, I felt judged, people didn’t think I had the potential to be successful and I struggled to fit in.”

“Our jobs are very visual which is absolutely perfect for the deaf and hard of hearing but I think they are put off by the stigma that the industry is not inclusive and is isolating which is shame.”

“The NTO has changed the industry for the better by building an amazing platform for the community to come together, to learn and to support each other.”

Rachel’s Plans For The Future 

“Increasing visibility and awareness for the deaf and disabled is an important way to promote understanding and inclusivity as I would love for everyone to feel included and to feel like they are a part of the community and to remove the ‘not inclusive’ stigma.”

“I have been invited to visit a secondary school with a deaf unit to meet the deaf pupils and to speak about my story to encourage them that they can be deaf business owners and that our industry is very welcoming to be in if it was something they would be interested in for their future career.”

“Sharing personal experiences and insights can be powerful in promoting understanding and empathy, and to encourage others who are deaf or disabled that they CAN follow their dreams!”

“I strongly believe that EVERY brand should have at least one individual who is deaf or disabled in their team, as this will encourage others and show them that it is a great industry to be in. I would absolutely love to work with brands in the industry to engage with deaf or disabled individuals as either a brand ambassador or collaboration, as I believe this will help amplify our voices and to further increase the visibility and awareness and to welcome those who are deaf, hard of hearing or disabled to the industry and reassure them that they will be seen, included and supported.”

“I would absolutely love to arrange an event or community where all deaf, hard of hearing and those with any disability could attend to meet each other, share stories, and build friendships, as I know there are a lot of us but we aren’t aware as our disabilities cannot be seen via social media.”

“I am noticing a lot of us are too anxious to attend events, awards, parties, retreats due to the fear of being the only one who is disabled and being excluded (I am one of these!) and I want to change this and for us to feel confident that we will be fully supported and included no matter where we go.”

Own a Salon? Offer a Service? Part Of The Beauty Industry? This Is What You Can Do To Be More Accessible For EVERYONE. 

PLEASE CAPTION EVERYTHING!” Rachel says. “I am seeing a lot more online courses now more than before and a lot of them are unfortunately not subtitled. I know it’s easily forgotten that there are people who are deaf / hard of hearing, please add subtitles to online courses, tutorials, stories etc.

Another important one she notes is “Do not assume!”. She says that one of the biggest mistakes people can make is assuming they know what a deaf or hard of hearing person needs. “We are all different, as some of us use BSL and some of us don’t. Some of us use interpreters and some don’t. Some of us will rely on lip reading and some don’t. Some of us are able to hear through hearing aids/cochlear implants and some of us are not able to.”

“So we are all different and we all have different needs, same with other disabilities too. Please do not assume, please take the time to find out how they would prefer to communicate, what situations they find more difficult and what sort of support they would need.”

“I can’t stress any more how important it is for you to be open minded and considerate of those who are deaf or disabled, especially when many are invisible.”

“In the beauty industry, our jobs are very visual and it’s all about making a client feel better about themselves- which is something us deaf and the disabled feel robbed of sometimes, so please be open minded, connect with them, and build a trusting relationship with them to make them feel good about themselves.”

“If you have a client, student or someone in your team who is deaf or hard of hearing, it would be great to learn British Sign Language and make an extra effort to include them in conversations. Please don’t just say ‘nothing’ or ‘I’ll tell you later’ as we find it offensive and disrespectful, always include them in your gossip / banter!”

“If you host face to face courses, meetings, or events, please be understanding to allow an interpreter to join if the deaf individual needs one. They aren’t there to be intrusive, they are there to be their ears and voice and to ensure the individual is 100% fully included.

“I really think it would be a great idea if every salon and business could take part in the Deaf Awareness week which is an annual event to celebrate the Deaf Community and to increase public awareness about the issues affecting deaf and hard of hearing people and heightens the importance of inclusion of the deaf community. This will be taking place at beginning of May.”

Rachel’s Biggest Inspiration

“Oooh that is a difficult one, as there are so many inspirational people in the industry but I must say I do admire Rose Ayling-Ellis as she has created so much deaf awareness whilst on Strictly Come Dancing, which has made a huge difference” says Rachel.

“I have noticed more clients using BSL to say ‘thank you’ at the end of their appointments and it’s the smallest things that go a long way!”

What Can YOU Do Next?

If you would like to learn BSL and gain a qualification, Rachel recommends to visit to find your local educator.

As BSL is almost like a 3D language, it can be difficult to learn much more than the basics from a book/video but you can definitely learn from an online course. Learning face to face will not only teach you, but will also help you build your confidence by having conversations in BSL with other learners in the class.

Please make sure the course is approved and registered by Signature as they are the leading awarding body for British Sign Language. 

Rachel x The Nail Tech Org 

“I was SO happy and honoured when Amy asked me to be a Guest Artist of the month” says Rachel. “I really wanted to promote and encourage deaf and disability awareness in the industry but I can’t do it on my own as you all know, it’s a huge industry!”

“The NTO is actually the first platform in the industry who genuinely want to make a difference for the deaf and disabled by making it a safe and inclusive platform for us to feel a part of the community and I am proud to be working with Amy and the NTO.”

“I have been filming a video about my life story, some deaf awareness tips and a mini BSL tutorial!”

“I am really hoping this will be the start of creating awareness and making an impactful change in the industry! Our industry is a wonderful community to be in and I can see the potential of making a change if all of you are willing to understand and work together to spread the word further. Let’s all work together to break down all of these barriers!”

Are you a member of The Nail Tech Org?

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