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Swim England puts plans in place to ensure deaf swimmers compete on equal terms

An exciting plan to ensure more deaf swimmers can take part in competitive races on equal terms has been drawn up by Swim England.

By September 2020, all licensed meets using Automated Officiating Equipment will be required to provide a secondary strobe light.

The strobe flashes to signal the start of a race but, currently, not every pool has access to this vital piece of equipment.

Now, following consultations with UK Deaf Sport, the Swim England Swimming Management Group has agreed to meet the challenge head on.

George Wood, Swim England sport development director, said: “We are committed to make sure that deaf swimmers have equal starts by 2020 and I am really proud that we are taking this step.

“One of the critical challenges in delivering this commitment is the variety of timing systems that exist across the pool stock in England, while the ownership and management of pools varies from place to place which means there are multiple partners to engage with to undertake this task.

“Some of these systems have secondary strobes readily available to purchase whereas for others it is more challenging to acquire effective equipment.

“In order to understand this challenge, we will be conducting an audit into the Automated Officiating Equipment used at facilities and we will look in greater depth at the technical solutions available.

“This project will require collaboration between a range of partners, including ourselves, regions and counties, UK Deaf Sport, meet organisers and venue operators.

“We have set out a timeline to make this proposal a reality and I am looking forward to working with all partners to achieve the aim.”

Delivering change

Swim England has set out an intended timeline to deliver this change. It should be noted that this timeline is subject to amendment depending on the results of the audit. If there are insurmountable issues with delivering this timeline outside of the sport’s control, then Swim England will not let this affect the provision of competitions and instead will revise the timeline and communicate this out to the swimming community.

Intended timeline:

  • From 1 January, 2019, all applications for meets at levels 1-3 will have to stipulate in their conditions whether a secondary strobe is available
  • From 1 September 2019, all level 1-2 meets must provide a secondary strobe light
  • By 1 September 2020, levels 1-3 and those level 4 meets using Automated Officiating Equipment must provide a secondary strobe light.

Piers Martin, executive chair of UK Deaf Sport, added: “UK Deaf Sport’s vision is every deaf person active and inspired by sport and physical activity.

“We are very pleased to be working with Swim England to ensure that swimming, and the swimming talent pathway, is open, accessible and offers a clear and equitable opportunity to all participants.”

Barry Horne, chief executive for Activity Alliance, said: “It is vital that all deaf and disabled people have access to sport and active recreation, whatever level they choose to take part.

“We are delighted to see these planned improvements taking place to ensure more deaf swimmers can take part across the country. Activity Alliance is proud to work with Swim England and UK Deaf Sport to increase opportunities.

“Their support is significant in contributing to meeting our shared determination to challenge perceptions and change the reality of disability, inclusion and sport.”