To round off the week, Two Big Ears would like to give you the transcript of last Sundays interview at the BBC, Sunday 8th September
The presenter was Jamie Coomarasamy.
It was a recorded interview, and I was joined by Rajeev Bagga and our interpreter Peter Shilston
JC: “…. One thing represented at the games, that is Hearing Impairments. Now you may be surprised to know that they have their own games – the Deaflympics. Stuart Harrison is Vice Chair of UK Deaf Sport who can tell me more about how they started.”
SH: ”The original Deaflympic games started as the “Silent Games” back in 1924 and they were set up at a time when society looked on Deaf people as being intelligently inferior, linguistically impoverished and outcasts. So what a group of Deaf sports men and women decided to do was to host an international games which mirrored the Olympics. So, that has been going on since 1924. Then, obviously, we then had the developments at Stoke Mandeville that was coming along with spinal-injury patients. In abut 1988, for about 5 years, the Deaflympic movement was in conversation with the International Paralympic Committee – they actually took part in the International Paralympic Committee because we thought that it might make economic sense to come together with the Paralympics. The conclusion we came to was that it was very difficult to incorporate the Deaflympics into the Paralympics because of the specific communication requirements for deaf athletes. The costs involved in providing interpreters and translators was just too prohibitive”
JC: “ I just seem to find that amazing because surely the costs, separate costs of the equipment which are needed for the athletes in the Paralympics must be equal or outweigh that for interpreters?”
SH: “Oh, absolutely that’s what frustrates us too. But you must understand that we, the Deaf community has enjoyed the Paralympics. So you are quite correct, the argument about costs – something could be done about it. The investment put into for example wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball in the UK, runs into the millions. Yet, if we just wanted to take the whole of the GB Deaflympics team to the next Deaflympics, you know, really, all we are asking for is half a million pounds.”
JC: “But do you want to be included in the Paralympics still ?”
SH: “Back in the 1980s and the 1990s, the Paralympic Games was still developing and I think at that time, the idea of the Deaflympics trying to merge with the Paralympics was very difficult. But, what has happened, obviously, over the last 20 years, is that with the Paralympics going forwards, all the other disability groups now have their world games, so we have the Visually Impaired World Games , Learning Disabilities World Games , Dwarf World Games and so on. And these competitions sit under the main Paralympics as feeder events or as preparation events. So, this is a personal point of view of mine, which is, perhaps we can re-visit the whole thing again, where the Deaflympic games becomes a feeder event to the Paralympics.“
JC: “We were hearing there from Stuart Harrison, the Vice Chair of UK Deaf Sport. So, what are the challenges for deaf athletes ? Well, Rajeev Bagga is a badminton player- a very good one in fact He has won 12 gold medals and was named “Deaflympian of the Century” he also plays in both Deaf and hearing competitions”
RB “ I didn’t know about other deaf people initially and I just started to play in the hearing environment and my parents supported me and I was just competing against more hearing people. I hadn’t met deaf people at that point ; I was just competing with hearing people at home. It was a challenge for me, and I actually started beating them. It was badminton, tennis, squash and I was doing quite well at it and very positively in that way. And then the first Deaflympics, I was quite shocked to know about it, I hadn’t heard of it, so I joined it and said obviously I am deaf so can you give me some information to do this. And so then I was in 1989, in my first Deaflympics in New Zealand and I started beating everybody and I thought from the experience I had gained from competitions with hearing people I thought the standards when I got there I felt I was able to cope very well with the competition.”
JC: “I just want to get out what exactly what is hampered by not being able to hear in the sports that you play?”
RB: “ I was able to do it when I was younger because I had the family supporting me. My father would support me with the communication so you see I would not have been able to do it on my own. As time had got on, I got into a hearing team and it got to quite a difficult stage where I was being hampered, I was actually trying to communicate with the rest of the team through lip-reading and simple gestures and it wasn’t as good as I would have liked it to be”
JC: “So when you are on the court, what does the interpreter do? Do they simply give you the calls form the umpires? Is that the only thing that you are missing out on?
RB: “You know, well, its prior to a match all referees are informed of me being Deaf so they know that I am going to be playing. So, I am competing against a hearing person and they use scores, they use visual scores (Rajeev signing the flip-card sign), so I can see that and sometimes if they have made a mistake and I don’t understand what the call is, the interpreter then steps in to explain what the call was or what the issue has been – we tried actually to do the actual games without the interpreters but it’s the clarification of particular points that are needed…”
JC: “So, in terms of actually playing the sport, it’s not really, it doesn’t really hamper you that much, it is the understanding why certain calls are being made and the communication with the umpires in general ? “
RB: “Yes that right”
JC: “How would you compare your experience in deaf sport versus your experience in non-deaf sport ?”
RB: “ I have got a passion with Deaf sport. I can see that it’s a lot better to actually have those competitions because the communication is there and you have those interactions throughout so I feel a lot more confident and a lot more comfortable in Deaf sport than I do in hearing competitions. If I am playing in hearing sport it is not as easy and so I need the extra communication because without that I don’t know what is going on and I feel as though I am not on a par with them to know what is going on.”
JC: “That was Rajeev Bagga a badminton player there and I was speaking to him with the help of an interpreter Peter Shilston. Now looking ahead here in the BBC World Service when we will have coverage of the Closing Ceremony of the Paralympic games….“
Have a good weekend !