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NELFT NHS Foundation Trust provides a range of community health and mental health services across the north east London Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, Essex and Kent and Medway.

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The first member of staff to get a service animal at NELFT

Photograph of Rianna and her service dog Orlando, NELFT logos

North East London Foundation Trust Equipment Co-ordinator, Rianna Curley, is the first member of staff to have a service animal to support her at the Trust.

Rianna has two cochlear implants and has been deaf since birth. She received her first cochlear implant when she was very young and then got her second when she was 13 years old. She is bilingual with both British Sign Language and Spoken English.

Orlando, a Cockerpoo, is Rianna’s service animal. A hearing service dog is specifically trained to respond to specific sounds that hearing people often take for granted, such as the sound of a doorbell, the telephone ringing, a baby crying, and a smoke alarm going off. The service dog will physically alert their owner instead of barking to gain their attention and lead them to the sound source.

Rianna said:

“Before Orlando, people around me didn’t know I was deaf until they started a conversation, and then when they realised, they were often shocked or scared and didn’t know how to deal with it, and they closed conversations quickly and left.

“Now, because people can see Orlando, they are mentally prepared and not shocked. It is allowing more meaningful conversations. And I feel much more included .”

The Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and the Hearing Support Network teams worked together with Rianna, her line manager and operational leads, to create a risk assessment and help to have Orlando support her at work.

Orlando has been with Rianna for the past six months keeping her safe and alert whilst working at NELFT. Rianna added:

“With Orlando, I feel safer knowing people will notice him and recognise that I have an invisible disability.

“I will be alerted of a fire alarm in public places because I have Orlando with me. He makes me feels safe. I feel that day to day basis got a bit easier as I don't need to worry about ‘what could happen’ situations, and he does put smiles on people’s face.”

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