The English Channel has a new conquerer!

With exactly a year to go to the opening ceremony for the 2017 Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey, former Great Britain deaf swimmer Andrew Rees has become the first deaf British swimmer to successfully complete a solo Channel swim.

News has been travelling so fast through social media and deaf networks that Two Big Ears have not had time to keep up! So,with permission,we are sharing the press release sent in by Margaret Baxter, Secretary, Great Britain Deaf Swimming Club, who takes up the story from here.

Andrew, who represented GB’s deaf swimming team in the 1990’s, set out from Dover yesterday morning, supported by his boat, the Louise Jane, and completed the swim in a little under 15 hours.

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Andrew Rees, Channel swimmer. Photo by Chris Ratcliffe.

 

Andrew, who is Welsh but lives in East Sussex, has trained with Brighton Swimming Club’s Sea Swimming Coach, Fiona Southwell, herself a successful channel swimmer. He has been preparing all season for this event, going to Majorca to train earlier in the year, and completing many hours of preparation. Under the rules of the Channel Swimming Association, he was allowed to wear a pair of ordinary swimming trunks, a hat and goggles to complete the gruelling endurance event, and has been on standby since 8th July, awaiting favourable conditions before being allowed to start his swim at Samphire Hoe Beach, near Dover, at 8am yesterday.

 

Andrew contacted GB Deaf Swimming Club earlier this year, asking if he could help to raise money for the club by being sponsored to swim the event, and the monies raised are to go towards providing financial support for the team that will be selected to swim for Great Britain next July in Turkey.

 

Deaf athletes receive little or no financial support from central Government or sporting bodies, and they have to raise the costs of competing for their country as well as training to be in peak condition for their events. For swimmers, this means that they will usually train, in the pool and the gym, for an average of 20 hours per week, with only a few days off for Christmas and Easter, and a short summer break, as well as completing school and university assignments and trying to raise funds in order to get to events. As an example, the cost of the last 3 major competitions (2015 World Deaf Swimming Championships in San Antonio, Texas, 2014 European Deaf Swimming Championships in Saransk, Russia, and 2013 Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria) has been over £6000 for each swimmer, before the cost of training at their local club, competition swimwear and associated costs are taken into account. Andrew’s sponsorship money will reduce the burden on them for the next games, and the club is indebted to him and to our previous epic endurance swimmers, the 5 Deaf Otters, a team of ladies who raised money for the club by swimming 5 ½ miles across Coniston Water in September 2015.

GB Deaf Swimming’s Chair, Brian Baxter, said this morning: “I would like to congratulate Andrew on the fantastic achievement of completing the Channel Swim solo, the first British Deaf swimmer to do so. This is a monumental coup, both on a personal level and especially for Deaf and hard of hearing swimmers. We are very grateful that he nominated GB Deaf Swimming Club as the chosen organisation for fund-raising purposes. The money he has raised will help our Deaflympic swimmers immensely, and his swim will also serve as an inspiration to them all.”

 

 

Other relevant links:

Andrew’s Channel Swim 2016 Facebook Page

Just Giving page

 

Enquiries:

Margaret Baxter

Secretary, GB Deaf Swimming Club

www.gbdeafswimming.org

Tel: 07713 739893, 01372 464761

 

PE and Deaf children

Hello Readers,

Your Sign Language version here.

Lord Moynihan, outgoing Chair of  British Olympic Association is worried that poor quality PE lessons, lack of space on timetables means that a failure to provide “a ladder of opportunity” for children will lead to an increasingly wide gap to standards between state and independent schools.

Two Big Ears is concerned that this means a ‘double whammy’ of lost opportunity for deaf children in schools.

Moynihan says that primary school children are being taught PE by teachers who lack the expertise to deliver the subject because most primary teachers receive just six hours of training in sport at university or college. Two Big Ears would add that that means there is very little training to make teachers aware of the needs of deaf children in their classes. Two Big Ears suggests that schools should do more to link up with local community providers to help them deliver appropriate activity. Teachers of the Deaf are usually English and language specialist and very rarely have any skills or training towards PE or after-school sport, working with the local community will be of benefit to them.

Moynihan wants to see a greater range of activity such as dance to inspire children turned off by traditional team games. Deaf children would be further marginalised by this. We need to see an emphasis on accessible activities that are inclusive and are activities that children can continue with at home with siblings, friends and family. The fundamentals of physical exercise should be nurtured.

Lord Moynihan said the nation is failing to “identify and provide a ladder of opportunity and performance pathways for outstandingly talented kids in the state sector”

Deaf children at primary and secondary mainstream schools are marginalised from after-school clubs and activities because many of them are bussed or taxied to school and the transport service providers are not flexible enough to accommodate this. The problem lies with Local Education Authority budgets not enabling such resources to be used more flexibly. Deaf children who have talent will be missing out.

Schools need to welcome the support of specialist organisations in the community who can come in and work with staff and pupils to enable them to become aware of the sporting pathways and opportunities that exist NEARER to home instead of at school. This information also needs to reach parents of deaf children so that they can help in this process.

Over 90% of deaf children are educated in their ‘local’ mainstream school and will not be aware of sporting pathways available to them. Visits to every school at least once a year by organisations such as UK Deaf Sport or one of its many National Deaf Sports Organisations would help to bridge the gaps in knowledge, not just for deaf children but for all.

If you are concerned about what you read and would like to contribute your ideas, time or support in any other way, please contact Bryan Whalley  bdwhalley@o2.co.uk  Chair of the UK Deaf Sport sub-committee on PE & School Sport for Deaf children. This committee meets three or four times a year to feed information up to the decision makers at the Youth Sports Trust and also acts as a hub of information for PE staff, teachers, classroom assistants and parents worried about deaf children’s lack of opportunity in PE.

Sports Survey for Black & Ethnic Minority Deaf people in the UK.

20th September 2012

Hello Readers!

It has been six days since our last post and Two Big Ears has been working hard dealing with a range of other potentially interesting posts to share with you. There are so many important topics to discuss, it is difficult to decide where to start next.

So, whilst we are still working away on some new posts, Two Big Ears would like you to help two excellent organisations here in the UK.

Action Deafness, in Leicester UK and Sporting Equals UK are collaborating on a research project into Black and Ethnic minority Deaf people and sport. Now unfortunately, at the moment, this research is only for UK residents.

However, my friends at Action Deafness will be very happy to share the results of the research with us when it is ready and perhaps we can all learn something from it.

I would like to see how powerful the internet is for Deaf people and how well we can reach people to fill in this form. If you are not a member of a Black or Ethnic minority in the UK, please pass it on to the right Deaf people and ask them to help out.

The questionnaire can be downloaded NOW, please send it back to the researchers by email and let them know you saw it on Two Big Ears!

Why should Society Recognise and respect the Deaflympics?

On Friday Two Big Ears promised to answer the question ‘Why should society recognise and respect the Deaflympics?”

In tonights post, Two Big Ears will demonstrate that the Deaflympics are 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.

Commentators and spectators alike are suggesting that the Paralympics is re-defining the term ‘disability’ and therefore justifying a sociological impact of sport. The Deaflympics are also capable of doing this.

First some short definitions:

“Social Model of Disability”  The social model of disability identifies systemic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusion by society (purposely or inadvertently) – society is the main contributing factor in disabling people.

“Medical Model of Disability” The medical model of disability focusses on the individuals limitations and ways to reduce those impairments or using adaptive technology to adapt them to society.

“Deaf Gain” is defined as a reframing of ‘deaf‘ as a form of sensory and cognitive diversity that has the potential to contribute to the greater good of humanity. There are several concepts within Deaf Gain, including; Deaf Increase – the opposite of hearing loss, emphasising that Deaf people have something of importance. Deaf benefit – deafness is a benefit as well as a loss. Deaf contribute – all the ways deaf people contrinbute to humankind

Between 1988 and 1993, the ICSD became a member of the IPC to try and find a way to assimilate into the Paralympics. Unfortunately, through the social model of disability the process identified systemic barriers created by the need for interpreters and the costs of this.  When I was interviewed by BBC Newshour yesterday, the presenter challenged the issue “But surely, these days the costs of providing funds to give paralympians specially designed wheelchairs, limbs , equipment and so on must far outweigh the costs of providing sign language interpreters – (in order to allow Deaflympians into the Paralympics)?” A mute point up for discussion between IPC and ICSD

In 1924, the founders of the Silent Games were looking for ways to empower deaf people though the Olympic ideals of Cubertin. Using the power of an international muli-sports competition for the greater good. The motto at the 2009 Taipei Deaflympics was “Power in Me” (The Chinese literal translation was “The Power of Silence”) it empowered both the deaf and the hearing to come together and learn about sign language. The Deaflympics brought a benefit to the Taiwanese hosts to enable them to provide a service to visiting athletes and supporters. The LOC of the games was a mixed team of deaf and hearing people in order to empower everyone and give them an opportunity that would ordinarily be denied.

In the context of Deaf Gain, Deaflympic athletes and coaches should be valued by society because they have something to contribute. Hearing coaches and athletes can pick up new ways of learning and interacting with their sports environment in order to improve performance. One example I have read is an occasion where the Swiss national junior snowboard team hired a coach who was deaf. “The coach realised that the snowboarders were listening to the sound of the board cutting into snow so they could work out if they were making the quickest stops and sharpest turns possible.  The coach was not satisfied with this reliance on auditory cues and made his athletes wear ear-plus during training. Deprived of their usual sensory feedback, the snowboarders initially felt out of their element, but the earplugs forced them to learn to depend on the feel of the snow beneath their boards. Eventually the athlete’s performances improved markedly.”

The Deaflympic are a great forum for “transnationalism” through gesture and sign language. A model of human interaction in a globalised world. Deaflympians are able to interact and communicate with each other across linguistic boundaries immediately. Therefore, in comparison, Olympians and Paralympians have to find a common spoken language before they can communicate successfully.

This week, Tom Smith, a deaf cyclist from Wales is competing in the European Deaf Cycling championships. Tom is not a native sign language user, he has been educated using the oral tradition. His tweets from Russia this week illustrate transnationalism. “Sign language improving. Alphabet similar to ASL. Just keep forgetting f & g ha ha!….. After the race, stood around talking to Russians, Belgians, French, Germans, Austrians, six nationalities including me – one language. How cool is that!”

By comparison, in the book “Sky’s the Limit” there is a description of a daily routine of GB cycling academy which at the time, was 3 hours road work, one hour lunch, 3 hours French then 3 hours track work. They needed to learn French so that they could live and work on mainland europe where French is a dominant language for cycling teams and training environments.

Olympians and Paralympians have a lot to gain from the valuable contributions that Deaflympians bring to human communication.

The article I  have read on ‘Deaf Gain’ concludes with the potential impact of this concept.

“For most parents, the concept of a deaf baby conjures up anxious thoughts of isolation, limited communication and myriad other difficulties for their child. But that is the old frame. The new frame, the frame of Deaf Gain, sees the baby not as a problem but as an asset. A family with a deaf baby benefits by being exposed to a new language and culture and to new people, ideas and experiences. A deaf baby is value added to a family, but the contribution benefits not only the family but general society as well. Every deaf baby born on this planet is a gift to humankind.”

In a world where the Deaflympics is recognised and valued, the above vision of a deaf baby in a hearing family could be translated to a local level in sport. At the moment, to most coaches and athletes, the concept of a deaf athlete/teammate conjures up “anxious thoughts of isolation, limited communication and a myriad of other difficulties”. But through Deaf Gain, the team can see the deaf athlete as an “asset”. A team with a deaf player benefits by being “exposed to a new language and culture and to new ideas and experience”. Value the Deaflympics and it will become a gift to sport and humankind in the same way that the Olympic and Paralympics have inspired a generation this summer.

Two Big Ears was originally planning to stop his campaign when he Paralympic flame was extinguished. But it has been decided to continue as they are some much more to learn about deaf sport. Only by keeping the Deaflympics and the forefront of society’s conscious might we see a “fair deal” for Deaflympians.

Two Big Ears will be blogging twice a week. so please watch out for future posts.

If you like what you are reading here and wish to keep up with other discussions on the subject, you are welcome to visit the UK Deaf Sport group on LinkedIn for professional discussions.

Why are Deaflympians treated so Differently? Part 3

BSL VERSION COMING SOON!

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”

WHO SHOULD HAVE THE RECOGNITION ?

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.

Goodnight

YOUR BSL VERSION WILL BE HERE SOON

Corrective Surgery and Local Sports clubs

Apologies for the late arrival of this post, should have been up yesterday.
I imagine at some point that everyone with a “spare part” – Hearing aid, cochlear implant, prosthetic limb, glass eyes, wheelchairs, dentures etc has felt the urge to, or had to, undertake some form of DIY modification to make the offending article work; sit comfortably; stop hurting – whatever.
Yesterday I carried out some corrective surgery on Two Big Ears because I have a deformed right pinna due to a mild form of Treacher Collins Syndrome – the right side Big Ear will not stay in place.
Like all good pioneers, I am not going to reveal my medical secrets as it might be a breakthrough for deaf people and earn me untold riches from the NHS or private health. I am going to test it out for a while. But what I can tell you is that the procedure only requires a ballpoint pen and two elastic bands – go figure.
Yesterdays experiences got me thinking that getting children and young people into sport, local sport clubs. Is a bit like corrective surgery.
Joanne and I have been looking after her eight and ten year old grandsons this weekend. On the way over to see them yesterday, Joanne wondered If the two pairs of Two BIg Ears would freak them out and would we get permission from the eight-year-old to allow Two Big Ears to take him to his weekly Taekwondo lessons.
There was no freak out. eight-year-old loved Joanne’s Two Big Ears and tried them on for size. My Two Big Ears were “embarrassing” , nevertheless less I persuaded him to let me keep them on and promised to explain why I was wearing them in the car on the way to “kick someone in the head”.
Try to imagine the stunned expression on the faces of coaches, parents and athletes as we walked in to the gym. I really would like to know if that’s the same reaction disabled people still get today when they turn up announced at a local sports activity and hope to join in? Just think about it, what must that feel like for everyone.
Don’t get the wrong end of the story here, the guys at West Midlands Taekwondo are fantastic. I quickly got them out of their misery by announcing that I was with eight-year-old and I had £10 for his subs.

Normal service quickly resumed and I really enjoyed watching my first Taekwondo lesson, there were five little people with laser sharp focus, taking in every instruction from coach Mike Meese. Inspiring to watch a child being taught the basic foot movements and another carry out intricate arm blocks and punches. Only 10,000 hours away from their first world championship medal?

Of course, I made my daily contribution for the GB Deaflympics team I gave one of the mum’s and Mrs Meese a copy of the Introduction…
I would like your permission to allow me to share my inner thoughts as I watched that lesson, after all, that is the purpose of this blog.
There was a girl training with eight-year-old who had a physical disability – I wave hands in the air for her dad for including her in his sport. Many children born with disabilities are not given these precious life chances to enjoy sport. Her movements are restricted so she could not show the finese of of the others, but we could all see her for what she was and proud of what she was doing.
But this did make me wonder about the “hidden disability” of deafness. Instructions were given verbally in a mixture of Korean and English alongside a demonstration of the movement required. Had a deaf child turned up yesterday morning, the coaching methodology would have been insufficient to make sure that the child was able to follow what was going on. But I have my utmost faith in Mrs and Mrs Meese and the other members of WMTKD that they would make the necessary adaptation for the deaf child. They have my UK Deaf Sport business card, they can contact us as soon as a deaf person joins their club, we will be there to help them.
UK Deaf Sport is working in partnership with sports coach UK and the National Deaf Childrens Society we are currently developing a new workshop on communication skills for sports coaches which will be piloted later this year with a launch in the spring – if all goes well, I look forward to personally delivering the workshop to everyone at WMTKD.
First impressions really do count, imagine an astute parent of a deaf child turning up to yesterday’s lesson and making a personal assessment on its suitability for their child.
On the basis of what I saw yesterday, they would probably not return the following week. Parents of deaf children have a point of view quite different from mine, I am pre-lingually Deaf and a fully qualified PE teacher, sports coach, coach tutor so have my perspective on things. Parents are experts on their own children but not necessarily experts on inclusive sport for disabled children.
When eight-year-old and I got back home, Mum and Dad were almost ready to leave for their well deserved weekend break. Dad and I had a chat about the lesson and his hopes for both his boys. I learnt that Dad had taken 10-year-old to the local Sea Cadets but decided from his point of view that there was something not quite right about the group, it made him feel uncomfortable, so they are looking for something else to do. First impressions, rightly or wrongly are powerful – we, in sport have to get it right first time otherwise we risk losing newcomers.
There is a boxing club I know who have an excellent approach to first time visitors and I assume it is also replicated at all ABCs – I hope. Both parent and child are invited to observe their first session, if the child is straining at the leash to have a go, they can. When Joanne’s son showed an interest in the sport we took him along to the club to observe.
The volunteers at the club explained everything to us, showed us around the venue etc, made as all feel welcome. But, we never went back. Although the club explained that they had worked with another deaf child before, this did not persuade our 14 year old. He was concerned about the enormity of the communication issues facing him. It was his own personal impression of what he saw.
If I had not been there, Joanne would not have taken her son because there was nobody to communicate with them. If there had been another deaf person at the club, (volunteer, boxer, coach, or parent) – then there would have been a higher possibility of him returning to give it a go.
It’s human nature, we all want to be with people like ourselves. There has to be a common denominator that compels us to join a new club, but sometimes the sport itself is not enough.
Deaf people need someone that they can communicate with. The little girl I admired yesterday, her father is a player – Taekwondo is a family thing.
In the beginning, 8-year-old had to be told he was going to his lessons, it was not out of choice, even now, Mum and Dad have to make sure he’s ready to go and take him there. They do this because they want him to have the best chances in life, they believe that sport is a force for good.
Getting disabled children involved in a local sports club is a bit like corrective surgery, get it wrong and you are psycologically scarred, sometimes for life and the task becomes much harder.