Swim England and UK Deaf Sport making swimming accessible with equal starts

Swim England and UK Deaf Sport are making huge grounds to ensure swimming is more accessible than ever before for deaf swimmers.

The start of a race can be challenging for deaf athletes, especially those who are unable to wear their hearing aids or cochlear implants in the water.

As part of an ongoing project, an unprecedented number of facilities in England which host level one and level two meets have been equipped with strobe lighting to ensure deaf swimmers have equal starts to their peers.

Out of the 69 facilities which held these meets in the 2018-19 season, 33 have been required to purchase an additional strobe and more than half of those have already done so.

Swim England and UK Deaf Sport are continuing to work with their regional partners to ensure those remaining facilities will have access to a secondary strobe as soon as possible.

They will still be able to host level one and level two meets during the 2019/20 season, as they have already put plans in place to provide the strobes in the near future.

An inclusive sport

Swim England and UK Deaf Sport are committed to making these changes nationwide, so deaf swimmers across the country have access to equal starts.

George Wood, Swim England’s Sport Development Director, said: “I am delighted that this project is pushing forward and we now have more facilities that host level one/two meets able to provide equal starts for deaf swimmers.

“We will continue to progress with this, so that all level one/two meets provide equal starts.

“This will help to further improve the experience for athletes in swimming and keep the sport at the forefront of inclusive sport.

“We are grateful for the support provided by UK Deaf Sport.”

Valerie Copenhagen, UK Deaf Sport Head of Participation, said: “I’m really pleased with the developments that have happened around this and that we now have a clear plan for when these secondary strobes and training/guidance will be in place.

“This is a great step forward for deaf swimmers who wish to participate in their local, regional and national competitions but are not given the same opportunities as all participants to start the race on an equal footing.

“There are exciting times ahead for swimming and the deaf community and we would like to thank Swim England for their continued support of UK Deaf Sport’s work around the disability agenda in sport and physical activity across England.”

As part of the partnership, UK Deaf Sport are offering to train volunteers to help them understand the unique information and support needs of deaf people.

Both Swim England and UK Deaf Sport will seek to identify opportunities to support coaches, referees and officials through deaf awareness training and support.

Please contact Valerie Copenhagen at participation@ukds.org.uk if you would like to take part in this training.