Guest post: Welsh Deaf Golf Association

Two Big Ears post Classifying Disability Sport has prompted a very good BSL response from Sarah Lawrence of the Welsh Deaf Golf Association who is asking for opinions on the suggestion of introducing 35dB as a category to a Home Nations competition in the UK.

Here is Sarah’s BSL


You are all welcome to reply.

Why are Deaflympians treated so Differently? Part 3


On Wednesday, Two Big Ears looked at how the 21st century media uses 19th century freak show structures, stories and techniques to market the Paralympics and why this is having a negative impact on Deaf sport because Deafness is a hidden disability.

Tonight, (or through the early hours of Friday!) Two Big Ears is going to re-write history by describing what philosophies influenced the people who created the “Silent Games” in 1924 and the “Stoke Mandeville Games” of 1948 and the way that these ideas have been recorded in history, influences the way people treat Deaflympians differently today.

First of all, we look at what inspired Eugene Rubens – Alcais, a Deaf car mechanic and competitive cyclist from Paris to dream up the first international multi-sports event for disabled people in 1924

He drew his courage from Pierre de Coubertin the French aristocrat who in the late 19th century promoted the benefits of athletics and organised the modern Athens Olympics in 1896. Coubertin wanted to introduce PE to French schools. He believed that his countrymen were easily defeated in war because they did not take fitness seriously enough. He travelled the world to study different methods of teaching:

“What Coubertin saw on the playing fields of Rugby and the other English schools he visited was how “organised sport can create moral and social strength”. Not only did organised games help to set the mind and body in equilibrium, it also prevented the time being wasted in other ways. First developed by the ancient Greeks, it was an approach to education that he felt the rest of the world had forgotten and to whose revival he was to dedicate the rest of his life. (Wikipedia)

Eugene Rubens- Alcais was born in 1884 and grew up in a time when “societies everywhere viewed deaf people as intellectually inferior, linguistically impoverished and often treated as outcast”. He became a prominent member of the French Deaf community, led the Paris Sports Club for Deaf Mutes and became President of the French Deaf Mute Sports Federation. Inspired by Coubertin’s ideas of the Olympics and together with the help of a young Belgian named Antoine Dresse, they created the idea of the international “Silent Games” as a way of challenging the oppression towards deaf people at that time. They used “Olympic ideals” to give the deaf communities around the world the “moral and social strength” to help each other and improve their place in society. Self-empowerment and forbearers of the “Social Model of Disability”.

Eugene and Antoine timed the “Silent Games” to be held in Paris two weeks after the 1924 Paris Olympics to gain maximum possible exposure. The “Silent Games” were modelled on the Olympics and despite what the IPC want everyone to believe today, it is the “Silent Games” that were the first international games ever for any group of people with disabilities. “The games immediately became the social context for countries to deliberate about similarities and differences in the welfare of their deaf people and afterwards, the deaf sporting leaders assembled at a café in Paris and established Le Comite International des Sports Silencieux (CISS) which was later named ICSD; The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf.”

Not surprisingly, Eugene earned the nickname the ‘deaf baron de Coubertin

In the last year of the 19th century, Ludwig “Poppa” Guttman was born in Germany and rose to become an eminent doctor. He fled Jewish persecution in Nazi Germany and came to England to work at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Ludwig grew up during the “Jewish Revival” which included the use of physical training and sport as an expression of new Jewish self-confidence and a way for the Jews to integrate into a non-Jewish environment. Is this pretty much what Eugene Rubens- Alcais was attempting to do for deaf people to live in a non-deaf environment ?

It has been assumed that Ludwig’s involvement in sport as a youth would have influenced his later ideas for using sport to rehabilitate his spinal-injury patients and their reintegration into normal life. He came up with the idea of the first Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 to coincide with Opening Day of the London Olympics of that year, 24 years after the international “Silent Games”


At this point, Two Big Ears would like to re-write history correctly, contrary to what The Spinal Injuries Clinic at Stoke Mandeville claim. Ludwig Guttman was not one of the founding fathers of organised physical activity for people with a disability. That honour goes to Eugene Rubens-Alcais with the support from Antoine Dresse.

Eugene Rubens-Alcais is described by his peers as “a man of modest habits who lived in a sparsely furnished and simple attic apartment, a mansard, while he passionately pursued his vision he gave all his time and what he had in working for deaf people and deaf sports.” Another account is “he always lived in relative poverty and died in 1963. His activities did not enrich him (financially) and is a motive furthermore to honour his memory.”

Ludwig Guttman in comparison was a ‘hearing’ person and rose to become an eminent British neurologist, awarded the OBE, CBE and was knighted in 1966.

Two Big Ears requests that British “hearing” society retracts its claim to have ‘invented disability sport’ through their adopted Dr “Poppa” Guttman and we should give due regard and respect with a posthumous honorary award to the earlier achievements of the Frenchman and the Belgian who got there first. Furthermore, a BBC Sports Personality Award should be given to the Deaf Club in Glasgow who 140 years ago, established the first deaf football club in the world in 1871-72.

The Deaflympics is a “silent” deaf voice in a hearing community inspired by “louder” Olympic and Paralympic “hearing” voices. It is time for the majority to listen and accept and properly honour the truth and support its Deaflympians on equal terms with Paralympians. Two Big Ears is not suggesting a merger of the two movements – he will share his ideas in a later blog.

On Monday Two Big Ears will answer the question ‘Why should society recognise and respect the Deaflympics?” Two Big ears will demonstrate that the event is worthy of its equal standing to the Paralympics by using the concepts of “Deaf Gain” and the Social and Medical Models of Disability and the benefits of elite disability sport.

Two Big Ears is now taking a well-earned rest to visit family ‘up north’ and enjoy what promises to be a fantastic finale and Closing Ceremony for the 2012 Paralympics. We will have a light-hearted break from all this heavy philosophical stuff with some weekend-banter and pictures of those who are supporting Two Big Ears.



Why are Deaflympians treated so differently ? Part 2

Written by Stuart Harrison

Yesterday Two Big Ears and I looked at how financial prioritization to Olympic and Paralympic sport in the UK has been detrimental to deaf sport whilst in other countries there has been a more equitable approach to recognising elite Deaflympians within sport pathways.

This post is probably the most difficult one for me to write because it will be controversial. I have shared my views privately over the years with colleagues whom I could trust whilst always looking for the opinion of others and evidence that would back up his perspective. This week he has been able to find evidence in an article in The Independent on Sunday by Peter Popham examining the work of Danielle Peers, a Paralympian who now coaches sport and is working on her PhD thesis in disability, sport and human rights at the University of Alberta.

I have long harboured the opinion that people’s perception of disability influences decision makers when thy decide that Paralympians are more deserving of support than Deaflympians because of the “19th century freak show phenomenon“. Deaflympians don’t look freaky.

Peers demonstrates that the Paralympics are ‘sold” to create more profitable versions of the “Games” . Marketing has “drawn on the specific structures, stories and techniques of freak show”.

This appeals to ‘gawking” tendency when promoters focus on tragedy and deformity instead of athletic achievements.

On the opening day of the Paralympics  I bought a national newspaper with the entire front and back cover displaying a photograph tightly zoomed in on bladed legs. I doubt that a similar image of Usain Bolt’s legs, would sell news.

I agree with Peers that the  Channel 4 ‘superhuman Paralympians’ video “showing a car flipping and a worried pregnant woman reinforced disability as tragic and horrible.” And I would like to add that no superhuman Learning Disabled athletes are in the video, they are outwardly ‘normal’ – so not marketable.

Deafness is a “hidden” disability and cannot compete for government funding or media coverage in the same way because people do not see Deaflympians as being any different to able-bodied athletes and therefore in 2009 did not challenge the Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe MP, when he argued that Deaf athletes are not discriminated against because they (are normal) and can compete in the Olympics like Antonio Ally. You cannot ‘focus’ on the bodies of Deaflympians as a “problem”.

The huge amount of negativity aimed at a BBC blog written yesterday featuring the views of the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf ICSD, illustrates public misconceptions very clearly

Popham concludes his article with “Disability like racism, is in the eye of the beholder. And while a handful of superb athletes are put on a pedestal, the grinding lives of the majority go on as before.”

Tomorrow’s third part will look at the philosophies behind the formation of the “Silent Games” in 1924 and the “Stoke Mandeville games” of 1948 and how “history” has been written in a way that influences people to treat Deaflympians differently.

You can read Peter Popham’s article about Danielle Peers here

Two Big Ears was working early this morning at BNI Hinckley, pleased to hear that some members have been following the blog. Thank you!

How is Two Big Ears campaign getting on?

Two Big Ears is taking a coffee break from work routine. Checked the Just Giving page.

Two Big Ears had a go at Stuart Harrison and told him that he was not setting a good example by not making a donation!

Thank you to Stuart for donating !

A big thank you to Wendy (donated 31/8/12 on day 3 of the campaign) we don’t know if it was because of Two Big Ears, but thank you.

A big well done to Lisa, Nathan and Joel who needed no motivation at all over two years ago THANK YOU.

In the past 48 hours we have had 52 views an hour on this blog. Brilliant !

Why not show your support this time and make a donation.

In theory, with £10 donations visitors could have all raised over £2,000 in the past 48 hours.

Two Big Ears wants to know what would make you change your mind and donate ?

Two Big Ears is looking out for your reply!

Sorry no BSL version for this post. Coffee break over back to work!

Why are Deaflympians treated so differently ? Part 1

In July this year, Craig Crowley MBE, President of the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf (ICSD) said that it was “bittersweet” that London was hosting the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics because deaf sport has become more isolated in recent years.

Seven years ago, Dame Kelly Holmes was screaming and punching the air in Trafalgar Square on hearing the news that London had won the IOC vote to host the Olympic and Paralympics. At that moment, Craig and I shared a dream that the Deaflympics was at last going to get some recognition here in the UK.

That morning I was giving a presentation at Oak Lodge School for the Deaf in South London, our Deaflympic gold medalist Joanne Davison was with me as we spoke to the children about the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne and how Joanne won her medal. I even took the opportunity to announce that London had won the 2012 bid – the whole school erupted in joy – along with the rest of the country. But our nightmare was just beginning.

In 2005, UK Deaf Sport was on a high, returning from a very successful Deaflympics in Melbourne and working closer towards the targets that we had set ourselves with the financial support from UK Sport. We were confident that with comparatively smaller funding than the Paralympians we were going to continue improving for Taiwan 2009 and beyond.

In 2008, UK Sport announced that the Deaflympics were not going to feature in their seven-year plan for 2012. Along with nine sports, UK Deaf Sports funding ceased.

Personally I could understand why they had to cut nine sports in favour of others. But UK Deaf Sport is not a single sport. To treat the whole of the UK deaf sports landscape in that way not only affected sport, It affected the deaf community as a whole. That community anger and bewilderment is still simmering today – evident in comments made in various media

UK Deaf Sport challenged the decision at UK Sport Resolution but it was rejected and the organisation could not continue with an appeal because it did not have the financial capacity to do so.

Deaflympian, Oliver Monksfield took the issue up with his local MP, Ian Duncan Smith, who raised the matter in Westminster Hall on 16th June 2009  and asked the Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe to reply. Sutcliffe argued that:

“UK Sport’s policy does not discriminate against deaf people or hard of hearing athletes. Deaf athletes who meet the criteria for UK Sports world-class performance programme in either Olympic or Paralympic sport will be supported. There are currently three athletes in the programme who are deaf or have declared a hearing impairment. In the past, the programme included Antonio Ally who competed in the 2004 Olympics. “

In reality what they are funding is a two-tier performance pathway. The Paralympics feeding into the Olympics. Long before Oscar Pistorius there was Catherine Du Toit  moving up from Paralympic to Olympic swimming. We almost had our own Paralympian Sarah Storey break into the GB Olympic cycling squad – this only happened because funding is available for Paralympians. It is most likely that more Deaflympians would break into the Olympic teams if there was funding in place for them.  The argument goes, that if Antonio Ally can get into an Olympic team, then there is no need to fund Sarah for the Paralympics because like Antonio she does not need it. Of course she does, and so do our Deaflympic athletes.

The UK government wants to see Deaflympians compete in the Paralympics. But that is not going to happen just yet, it is not a decision for UK Deaf Sport to make. It is up to the realms of the IPC and ICSD to work out a solution. So in the meantime they need to fund the GB Deaflympics team, it will cost less than 1% of the GB Paralympic budget to send a full Deaflympics team to Sofia in 2013.

This first part has all been about Deaflympians being treated differently by money and financial priorities. Tomorrow is the second part – other reasons why Deaflympians are treated so differently.

Two Big Ears has not been out and about very much today because at the behest of readers of this blog, Two Big Ears has been creating BSL versions to go alongside the written word. Please be patient with Two Big Ears whilst we find time to bring the BSL videos up to date.

Current videos are: Big Ears is Born, Opening Ceremonies, Ear we go and Batty at the Belfry

Why are the Deaf not in the Paralympics?

Liz Jones has created a storm of responses to her article in yesterday’s Mail on SundayI’m Profoundly deaf, so why cant I be in the Paralympics?”  Readers were challenging her claims about being Profoundly deaf, or criticising her lack of research on the subject of deaf sport. Others wondering why deaf sport was not doing enough to get into the Paralympics and others had commented on the “invisibility” of Deafness.

Two Big Ears raises public awareness that by remaining “hidden”, deaf people continue to “Get a raw deal.”

For those who think Deaf sport should be doing more to work with the Paralympic movement. I can bring everyone up to speed with the relationship between ICSD (Deaflympics) and IPC (Paralympics).

The ICSD was admitted into the IOC in 1955 as an International Federation with Olympic Standing. The Olympic flag has flown alongside the Deaflympic flag since 1985.

By the 1990s it was becoming increasingly more expensive to host the Deaflympics and to participate in them. Therefore at the behest of its international membership, the ICSD approached the IPC to examine the possibility of joining the IPC to help reduce costs, but also to take advantage of the high public profile that the Paralympics were attracting. The IOC was also keen for this partnership to take place.

However, because of the communication requirements of Deaflympians, the prohibitive costs to the IPC of providing sign language interpreters and the inability of the Paralympic games to accommodate the growing number of Deaflympians, the ICSD took the decision to withdraw its membership from the IPC. Other reasons for withdrawing were that the ICSD could not support the elimination of  the number of sporting events that would be offered to deaf athletes.

In November 2004, the IPC and ICSD signed a memorandum of understanding in the hope of creating a collaborative landscape in international competition and a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities as separate organisations. Through the MOU, ICSD and its members , including UK Deaf Sport encourages deaf athletes with additional disabilities to compete in IPC events and conversely multi-disabled athletes who are deaf to compete in Deaf World Championships. In addition, the agreement was also to mutually recognise each others autonomy as organisations and co-operating to address conflicts between affiliated organisations.

However, there is still some way to go before Paralympians like this week’s Equestrian bronze medalist Laurentia Tan, a deaf woman with Cerebral Palsy will feel fully included in the Paralympic Games. A couple of months ago, I exchanged emails with Laurentia and asked her to describe the Paralympics from a deaf persons perspective. Now, for the record,we are talking about someone who requires BSL interpreters.

Yes, I was an individual rider but now we have a team of para riders so there is a bigger number of people involved.  Since we now have a team of para riders, I have booked interpreters to accompany me to all international competitions and it has really made a positive difference to my experience.  However, my parents and I have had to pay interpreters’ fees, and I am trying to sort out sponsorship / funding for this.   

I also remember during the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, when I joined the rest of the Singapore Team (i.e. swimmers, athletics, sailors and other Team officials) I found it really difficult to understand what was going on and had to rely on my parents and coach to help with communication.  

I have explained to my National Federation (Singapore) about needing a ‘team’ of interpreters so that they can work to cover the whole period required.  I also know how difficult it is to book interpreters so it is possible I will require a ‘team’ of interpreters.  However, I am aware that there are only so many places for accreditation and I was wondering if LOCOG will be able to assist in sorting out accreditation for the ‘team’ of interpreters to ensure that I have an interpreter with me for the required period.”

Unfortunately, when UK Deaf Sport got in contact with LOCOG (indirectly through intermediaries), they were told that this was not a GB issue and that LT needed to take it up with the Singapore Paralympic Association.

Now, at the time, I thought that was a fair enough reason to give. After all its bad enough that EDF Energy customers here in the UK were funding French athletes to win Olympic gold medals! Until one day, I was watching the Olympic Taekwondo on TV and there we could see, “british” volunteers massaging and applying ice packs to non-GB players during time out periods. Surely it was not too much for LOCOG to accommodate LaurentiaNational Lottery’s needs in the same way?

Looking back at the attempts by ICSD to merge into the IPC in the 1990s. Things were very different in those days. John Major was just about to fund sport via the National Lottery and the Paralympics were still relatively unknown. So, perhaps its time to have another meet at the table. Other major disability groups now have their own multi-event World Games which feed into the Paralympics. Perhaps this is now time for Deaflympians to try and do the same?

It has been suggested that ICSD try and negotiate for a small number of sports to be included in the Paralympics and then have the Deaflympics as a feeder event but because it was recognised as part of the Paralympic pathway and family it will make it easier to attract sponsorship etc and that Deaflympians can become part of the UK performance elite. perhaps it could also explore the inclusion of a hard of hearing classification alongside the 55dB threshold, that we discussed yesterday?

In 2005 UKDS lost its Deaflympic funding from the government in order for it to enable the country to prepare of the 2012 Paralympics. UKDS argued that GB Deaflympians were being discriminated against in favour of others. Iain Duncan Smith raised a debate in the House of Commons and the government of the day (Labour) argued that it was not discriminating against deaf people and used the example of Antonio Ally, a british deaf diver being able to compete at Olympic level and gain lottery support. We will discuss this further tomorrow.

Yesterday, whilst we were out, Two Big Ears II asked me if her shoes were suitable to wear out in public. I took one look at her feet and then pointed to her Two Big Ears. “You are quite comfortable to be seen in public wearing Two Big Ears and your worrying about your shoes?”. Joanne has become quite attached to her Two Big Ears. We met people in Fosse Park, Leicester today and handed out ten Introductions

Don’t forget to make a contribution to help the GB Deaflympic team

George Elliot’s stones

I promised in my first post that if you keep in touch with the blog I will explain the reason for Two Big Ears. What I will say now is that its not going to be possible to explain it all on one post as there are going to be so many different perspectives to take on this. But ultimately, it is about educating and making people aware of the Deaflympics, UK Deaf Sport and related issues.
In my daily work, I am always telling people what I do.  I can explain it all to one person only to find a few minutes later I am saying something completely different to the next person. This is because we are all human and when we interact with each other we say things that will enable us to make the quickest connection and get our messages across.
But we do need to have consistency in messages, especially if there are important points to get across to people.

This is what I use at work

So, with that in mind, I have created a fact sheet – well, that’s what I have been calling it. But in reality it is an “Introduction” so thats what I am calling it from now on – you can read a copy of the introduction that we have been handing out to people here.

So, enough of the background static… I know you are dying to know what happened today..

You don’t know how pleased I am to tell you that my gorgeous wife Joanne has now got Two Big Ears! We have been out together today and she has been wearing her TBEs with me.

Our first port of call was George Eliot Hospital – I have been going there on and off for almost two years now trying to get rid of a troublesome kidney stone. Its a really painful bugger when it moves! The treatment is really interesting, instead of cutting people open, they now apply ultrasound-waves to shock the stone and break it up into small pieces (lithotripsy). Sometimes is a quick solution but for others it can take several treatments before anything starts to shift – In my case I have needed three visits to the coal-face. Today, was finding out how things have progressed.
Joanne was in a fit of giggles as she noticed the many different reactions Two Big Ears provokes from people. In the car park, a bloke walking towards me did not notice anything at first because he was not looking, talking to his mate. As we got closer he started to look where he was going – he almost jumped out of his skin! – poor bloke! I gave him an introduction

Main out-patients reception, all the locals of George Eliot NHST can see this place in their minds eye – but for you outsiders- it a really busy place to be, we could feel all the eyes homed in on Two Big Ears! A nurse came up to us in the queue “Right then, I suppose there is a reason for all this is there?” I handed her the introduction “Have a look at this, please give us your support” – Response, “Ah, great, wonderful, I have a hearing aid too” and she pushed back her hair to show me.
Now, those of you dear and close to me will know that I have been in and out of hospitals all my life – we will keep all that for another time. Anyway, I am trying to say that NHS staff do their level best to help you especially if you are a regular, but when you are deaf its the same old problems each time….
But Two Big Ears has a really interesting affect on people. I asked the receptionist if they had booked my interpreter for the appointment. Unfortunately, nothing was in the book. But this time the lady went out of her way to the ‘transport’ office to double check for me! She came and found me in the waiting area and apologised that nothing had been organised. Its really frustrating when this happens, hospitals should have this type of information on file so that when BSL users have appointments, the interpreters are automatically booked. Maybe one day…
“I will just have to hope for the best” I told Joanne as we waited. I was thinking of the rigamarole of asking the Doc to repeat himself, or slow down or whatever. Yeah whatever…
We got called down to the consulting rooms – Dr Raaj was in the waiting area. “So whats it all about?” – I gave him an introduction…
We were quickly ushered into a consulting room and asked to wait… it felt like ages. Joanne suggested that they had moved us on quickly because they wanted Two Big Ears out of the way – quite possibly, or are we just being paranoid about the affect of Two Big Ears ?
The consultation was one of the very best I have had for years! I usually find Dr Raaj quite difficult to understand. But today he was a brilliant communicator! It was almost as if he had just done a crash course on Deaf Awareness, it was a great communication experience. He took great care to make sure we understood what was happening and gave me time to relay to Joanne.
In the end it was all brilliant news. You can see it in the photo – I will leave you to “spot the difference” in the images. The clue is “good news” 
On the way out of the hospital we got called over by the two ladies manning the Macmillan Information desk “What’s it all about?” – I handed them an introduction “Please have a look at this, we would like your support.” This time, instead of walking on, we decided to wait for their responses. “That’s a lovely idea, where can we get those ears ?” I am going back next week with two pairs of Two Big Ears for the Macmillan ladies and a stack of Introductions… thank you ladies!

This afternoon we were with some Deaf friends who were having their home valued by an estate agent, we talked about Two Big Ears, the agent read the Introduction, she explained that her father was deaf…

The young lady at the Macdonalds drive through… rabbit, headlights…. say no more…

To the car on the motorway, sorry if we made you take the wrong turning and swerve all over the road, you should have been looking at the road not Two Big Ears

Joanne: “These Two Big Ears are itchy”
Stuart: “Must be like that for amputees and their legs”

Finally, We had another brilliant piece of good news today for UK Deaf Sport and the 2013 Deaflympics, but I am not allowed to tell you yet… you have to keep watching this blog.

Please tell everyone to follow us – we need to convert people to understand deaf sport and the Deaflympics, tell them about Two Big Ears

Batty at the Belfry

First job of the day today – strategic planning meeting at The Belfry with Simon Kirkland of Sport Structures.

Public impressions? On the drive into The Belfry, I did wonder how the staff would react to Two Big Ears – would I be asked to remove them or leave quietly?  No problem. whatsoever. A group of ladies in the lobby saw Two Big Ears a mile away – must have been at least ten smiles in that group – I hope I made their day – I passed them a fact sheet….
Lovely couple walking past me, thanks for your smiles… fact sheet…

I found Simon in the Belfry Bar, all the business suits looking at me as i walked through. The looks on their faces….

I apologised to Simon for being 30 minutes late – explained that  had to find a pair of ears… “I cannot take you seriously with those things on”. But we did take it seriously the Two Big Ears provoked a deep conversation on the impact of last nights Opening ceremony etc.

Pass on the word Simon – you have a fact sheet….


Ear we go!

Thanks to Ted at Clowning Around, Nuneaton for my new ears!
“my grandson is deaf” he told me.
Now we would never have made that connection otherwise.
I left him with a fact sheet



Opening Ceremonies

Watching Olympic/Paralympic opening ceremonies on TV, remind me how privileged I have been to walk out with the GB team at the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne, Australia. I know the feeling… even now, 7 years later I get emotional about it.

I have woken up this morning and prepared a fact sheet to hand out to people so that they might understand Two Big Ears.

I am waiting for the shops to open so I can go and buy my new ears. I am feeling utterly terrified of what I am about to do. Will people notice anything? Will it work? Its a bit like getting ready for a “Two Big ears Opening Ceremony”.