The National Deaf Children’s Society says that deaf children are missing out on opportunities to learn to swim because of excessive concerns about health and safety and a lack of understanding about deafness.
The charity’s research reveals that two out of five (43%) deaf children have had difficulties accessing swimming pools or classes because of attitudes towards their hearing loss. As a result, more than a third (36%) of deaf children lack confidence in the water, falling behind other children their age in developing what could turn out to be a life-saving skill.
Parents have reported a litany of excuses from pools and clubs, such as deaf children turned away because they wouldn’t be able to hear an emergency whistle, coaches refusing to teach deaf children alongside hearing children and insisting that parents stump up for expensive one to one sessions.
Kirsty Allen’s son Zach, from Buckinghamshire, was turned away by all the swimming clubs and pools in their home town: “Zach loves water games and there is no reason why his deafness should stop him swimming with other children. With a little bit of support, Zach can enjoy swimming classes as well as other children.”
Hayley Jarvis, the NDCS’s Inclusive Activities Manager said: “By taking simple steps like using hand gestures or visual aids, teachers and coaches can include a deaf child in swimming activities.”
NDCS is launching a guide, Deaf-friendly swimming, to show swimming coaches how, through making simple steps, deaf children can be taught to swim. Swimming centres and clubs will receive training, support and resources, published by NDCS in partnership with the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA), to help include deaf children in swimming sessions.
The Me2 Deaf Friendly Swimming Project offers clubs a free training course on how to work with deaf children. Clubs that would like to find out more about the project, should email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ndcs.org.uk/me2.
The Limping Chicken is supported by Deaf media company Remark!, training and consultancy Deafworks, provider of sign language services Deaf Umbrella, the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Look, Smile Chat campaign, and the National Theatre’s captioned plays.