We’re one year on from the most successful Paralympic games ever. All the venues were almost completely sold out and new national heroes were created with the likes of David Weir and Jonny Peacock cementing their places in our national memory.
The games were to achieve a success on a scale that few had predicted. With more funding than ever before to support our Paralympians, an extremely successful London Olympics and daily coverage on Channel Four, last summer was the greatest opportunity disability sport ever had to go mainstream. And it took it. Big style.
We’re now a few weeks on from the Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria. The torch relay made its way from Paris and thousands of deaf athletes competed in a wide range of events in what was a wonderful spectacle of sport.
Deaf Sports organisations in the UK who wanted to fund our Deaflympians struggled to find the money. UKDS (UK Deaf Sport) received £125,000 from Sport England to help with our Deaflympic preparations while at the same time, £347 million was allocated to support Paralympic athletes aiming to compete at the 2016 games in Rio. A quite staggering difference in treatment.
The funding situation means elite deaf athletes will continue to struggle while mainstream and Paralympic athletes will benefit from major investment in their coaching and facilities. The impact will be felt further down the chain too as most sports clubs are inaccessible to deaf children leaving only the talented hearing children free to benefit from quality coaching at a young age. As far as I know, there is no specific funding available to enable clubs to pay for communication support. The cost could easily be classed as unreasonable.
As Ian Noon pointed out so succinctly, it’s tiring enough concentrating on what’s being said in a meeting room, let alone outside in the howling wind, 30 feet away from the coach who isn’t even looking in your direction. No wonder so many kids came along when we launched deaf friendly football in Peterborough. Mainstream coaching doesn’t do the business.
The reason why a separate Deaflympic Games exists is communication. Whether that’s communicating with your coach, the fans, competitors or officials; being on a level playing field (excuse the pun) with everyone is almost as important as the competition itself.
The Deaflympics has a longer history than the Paralympics; it has as many competitors as the Paralympics and is planned to ensure that deaf athletes don’t feel like second class athletes.
It seems clear though that to access more funding for deaf sports, involvement in the Paralympics is the way to achieve it. Craig Crowley, outgoing President of the ICDS (International Committee of Sports for the Deaf) believes that the future of international deaf sport lies within the Paralympic structure. With little mainstream exposure for the Deaflympics, sponsorship is hard to come by and that could threaten its very existence.
Sofia 2013 was the pinnacle of sport for deaf people but sadly, outside the deaf world, the games passed most of the country by unnoticed. The only mainstream column inches talked of the funding issues, not the athletes.
So the question for you is this: Should the Paralympics merge with the Deaflympics? Should the Deaflympics carry on in its current form? Your views are welcome in the comments.
By Andy Palmer, The Limping Chicken’s Editor-at-Large.
Andy volunteers for the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society on their website, deaf football coaching and other events as well as working for Action on Hearing Loss. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP (all views expressed are his own).
The Limping Chicken is the UK’s independent deaf news and deaf blogs website! Check out our supporters:
Deaf Umbrella – Sign language communications provider, including BSL interpreters
SignVideo – Provider of online BSL video interpreting services
121 Captions – captioning and speech-to-text services
Signworld – online BSL learning
STAGETEXT – Charity providing theatre captioning – giving you every word of a play
Bee Communications – Remote Captioning – providing text-based access wherever you are
Krazy Kat – live visual theatre combining mime, dance, song, puppets and sign language
SignHealth – The healthcare charity for Deaf people
Deafinitely Theatre – theatre from a Deaf perspective
Signed Performances in Theatre – sign language interpreted plays and musicals
Lipspeaker UK – specialist lipspeaking support
SDHH – Deaf television programmes online
Sign Solutions – language learning and communications
Action Deafness Communications – sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton – education for Deaf children
RAD Deaf Law Centre – Providing legal advice for Deaf people – in BSL
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
The site exists thanks to our supporters. Check them out below:
- Signature: Leading awarding body for BSL qualifications
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. Find out 7 things deaf people want you to know!
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Eyewitness Media: TV and film from a Deaf perspective
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Signworld: Learn BSL online!
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- Association of Notetaking Professionals: The professional body representing Electronic and Manual Notetakers
- Sign Solutions: communication support, training and translation
- InterpretersLive: On demand BSL video interpretation
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Hearing Choices: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- deafPLUS: BSL advice helpline
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- Royal Shakespeare Company: Captioned and BSL interpreted performances (see dates here)
- Royal School for the Deaf, Derby: Residential education for deaf children
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people