Why researching Deaf sport is necessary.

The other day I was intrigued to learn via the BBC that Dr Michael Kearney from the University of Melbourne has discovered why Koala bears hug trees.

They do this to regulate their body temperature and thermal imaging cameras have demonstrated that in hotter weather the Koalas moved to the lower, cooler parts of trees – and the closer they hug trees, the cooler they get. fascinating stuff.

Now, what on earth does this have to do with Deaf sport?

Photo by : Stephen K Johnson

Photo by : Stephen K Johnson

Up until this morning, everytime I have seen pictures of Koalas, they are seen climbing trees, because that’s what they do, it’s their habitat. For most people, it’s nothing remarkable to note.

But from now on, until my dying day, my perspective on these animals will be altered. Everytime I see a Koala hugging his tree I will understand. I will have greater empathy for them and will also perhaps be more concerned about deforestation and its impact on other tree dwellers etc

My perspective has changed because of some interesting research.

Deaf sport and the Deaflympics require in depth research in order for society to accept that for too long now it has misunderstood deafness in relation to sport.

Photo by: Sam Perkins

Photo by: Sam Perkins

When you see pictures of Deaflympic athletes in action – nothing is remarkable, nothing grabs your attention. But once research demonstrates the impact of deafness on sports performance, there will be greater empathy and a willingness to act and ensure that sport no longer excludes deaf people and keeps them on the margins.

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You can read more about how deafness affects sports performance in my new book, Same Spirit Different Team – educating one new reader at a time.

Share your thoughts and experience :

 

 

 

 

Are the Deaflympics really necessary ?

A common question I often get asked : “Are the Deaflympics really necessary?”

The straight answer is “Absolutely.”  However, people seek justification for that assertion – they want to understand it in ways that they can relate to.

Recently, I came across a short video of Helen Willis and her life as a student at university. Helen wears a cochlear implant and the video explains the pros and cons of day to day living. Before you read the rest of this post, you need to watch the film, (there are subtitles and there is some sign language) It is only about 9 minutes long so please bear with me and come  back to this page once you have finished watching here.

Welcome back. Now, I suspect that some of you will have already decided how some scenes in that video give clear reasons why the Deaflympics are really necessary for the benefit of Deaf people. However, if you are still unsure, allow me to elaborate.

The IOC, in its wisdom, believe that the Deaflympics segregate Deaf people from society. On the contrary, the Deaflympics are necessary to provide opportunities to a balanced world of “silence and synthetic sound”. Although there have been advances in Cochlear Implant technology that now overcomes some of the limits in Helens implant, there is still a need for assistive technology and other resources to enable a Deaf person to function independently. Implants are not a cure and flashing doorbells, electronic note-takers, sign language and the company of other deaf people is still required.

The Deaflympics are necessary because the IOC and sport has not yet solved the barriers that prevail in sport. It is said that the ‘rules of the game’ do not need to be adapted for deaf people – but the environment does. Opportunities to improve communication for Deaf athletes and others in the sports environment remain uncharted, untapped and under-resourced. The assistive technology already in use at the Deaflympics is still not a regular feature in the sports competitions run under International Federation rules. Sports officials are also still ignorant to the simple changes that can be made to enable Deaf athletes to respond when play is stopped. Thus, the Deaflympics are necessary in order to teach the IOC and sport what is required to become inclusive.

The Deaflympics are necessarily  important for society because the development of an elite athlete is similar to the career development of every employee of working age and there are two areas that need attention in order to progress, succeed and get promoted. The first area is the development and practice of skills and activity of the job itself, this has to be done in the most efficient and effective way possible. The second area is the continuing professional development, socializing and networking that enables the worker/athlete to take on more information, insights and confidence to develop their skills and activity area further.

Helen’s experience as a student in an elite academic environment mirror the same difficulties facing Deaf athletes who work hard to function in the elite sporting environment. Like Helen, their brains have to work overtime to fill in the gaps so they can understand the complex information that their coaches are conveying. So much brain-power is used, just keeping up with the coaches and other support staff that assistive technology and resources or changes in behavior and working practices are required.

The sports environment is still very much like the pub scenario described by Helen. She is amongst fellow elite students but she feels useless, all she can do is watch people lips move because it is impossible to understand every word despite being skilled at lip-reading. The ability to contribute is an important measure of a persons worth to others.

The Deaflympic pathway is necessary because it is an untapped source of Olympic talent that has only been utilised by a very small minority ( Terence Parkin, Dean Barton-Smith ) to balance out or springboard up to the next level of elitism. Unfortunately, governments and national governing bodies are blinkered by the Olympic/Paralympic monopoly as the only pathway for disabled athletes. By doing this, they have marginalised elite deaf athletes to the back of the queue when it comes to access to the funding and resources required to succeed. I have covered the impact of this monopoly extensively in the book; Same Spirit Different Team.

The Deaflympics are really necessary because sport and physical activity are beneficial to people’s personal health, well-being and academic/economic efficiency. The same is obviously true for Deaf people, well, it was at one time, when educational systems based on Deaf schools fostered the adoption of active healthy lifestyles engineered through the school – community links that prevailed. Nowadays, that has all but disappeared. Deaf sport has been fragmented and in some localities obliterated into extinction.

The workplace is a stressful environment for everyone and it is possible find ‘release’ in sport and physical activity or other forms of recreation that takes our noses off the grind-stone and allow us to relax and recharge. But not so for Deaf people, the bolt-holes everyone takes for granted are still stressful environments for Deaf people and Helen’s involvement in Dancesport is a good illustration that sport is the ‘happy place’ we can all escape to and ‘forget our cares and lose ourselves’.

Like Helen, all Deaf people seek out the benefits of sport within the mainstream environment, in the local clubs and facilities that are close to hand. But as we saw in the video, the acoustic environment of sport does not lend itself well to effective listening and communication. The interviewer in the video asks Helen “When do you hear? – When do you hear about the results?”. Helen answers “I think I am going to be very happy with it. I’ll be very happy with whatever they say”. Realizing that Helen had not understood the question, the interviewer patiently tries again “Do you know when you hear?” and Helen was able to answer the original question, thus contributing effectively.

The important point to consider here is that this was a one off situation in the relatively short relationship between the interviewer and Helen that lasted for the duration that the film was made. But this occurs more often in the daily relationship between Deaf and hard of hearing people and their hearing friends, colleagues and family members. This scenario repeats itself time and time again, people lose patience and draw away and stop communicating with deaf athletes because it becomes burdensome. I once came across a declaration made by a hearing person that you can invite your Deaf friend to a party once, but only once because the situation with communication was too awkward.

In the film, Helen’s parents are supporting her at the dance competition. Whether or not this is a usual occurrence is irrelevant but their presence serves to answer another point about the support structures that elite athletes need and how this can be found in the Deaflympics. There was someone in the sporting environment that was able to communicate more effectively with Helen as a competitor and provide her with the stress-free interactions that enable the athlete to stay calm and composed under pressure.

If we do eventually succeed in persuading the IOC and sport to recognise and support the Deaflympic pathway correctly, the majority of athletes in the Summer and Winter Deaflympic will still not reach the pinnacle of the Olympics, but they will at best have been given the opportunity to reach their potential. This is true in the case of Rajeev Bagga, five-time Deaflympic badminton gold medalist. Bagga never reached the Olympics, but he did compete in the Commonwealth Games and other world –ranking events. Now retired from the Deaflympics, he still competes internationally in mainstream Masters badminton for England and is now sharing his knowledge and experience with Deaf and hearing people as a badminton coach through opportunities that have been created by Sport England recognizing the key strategic importance of UK Deaf Sport, the British representative of the Deaflympic movement and its network of sports opportunities offered by third sector deaf organisations and their partnerships with national governing bodies and other providers of physical activity. We are only just starting to get there.

We can argue that some political decisions that were made in the late 1980s and early 1990s by the leadership of the Olympic, Deaflympic and Paralympic movements have denied Bagga the opportunity to compete at the Olympics. The International Committee of Sport for the Deaf and Deaf sport needs to learn from this and move forwards. Deaf sport needs to teach society that the Deaflympics are necessary and have much to offer non-deaf people in return.

If you want to know what those benefits are right now or need further information on the politics that have shaped Deaf sport into what it has become today, read Same Spirit Different Team, the latest book on the Deaflympic games.

Thank you to Helen for sharing her experiences with us.

 

“Happy Birthday” Deaflympics.

At the start of Deaf Awareness Week, here in the UK, it is important to acknowledge that thirteen years ago last Friday – May 16th, 2001. The International Olympic Committee formally wrote to the CISS giving them permission to use the brand ‘Deaflympics’ in association with what was then the largest multisports event in the world for a single disabled group.

So “Happy 13th Birthday to the Deaflympics”.

There have been many misconceptions about the use of the word Deaflympics.

Some writers have re-written history by saying that the Deaf broke away from the IPC in the mid 1990s and set up their own Deaflympics. The real facts are that the olympic-format for Deaf sport began in Paris in 1924 as the International Silent Games, since then it has changed branding from World Games for the Deaf to World Deaf Games and now Deaflympics.

The Deaflympic Movement reaches its 90th Anniversary this summer.

As soon as the IOC authorised the name change to Deaflympics in 2001, there were some surprises in store. National Deaf Sports Committees began think about changing their own names – the Russians got there first with their equivalent title of Russian Deaflympic Committee – you would think that was such a common-sense thing to do, to bring it into line with other Olympic Movement representatives such as the National Olympic Committees and the National Paralympic Committees.

Unfortunately, the IOC wrote immediately to the CISS ordering the Russians to remove their new title as they were in breach of the IOC/CISS agreement which did not permit derivatives of the word Deaflympics.  The derivatives;  ‘Deaflympic Committee”, “Deaflympian” etc are not permitted.

The IOC lodged a trademark challenge against the organisers of the 2005 Deaflympics  for using the name “Deaflympic Games”. Fortunately, Kevan Gospar, Australian IOC member stepped in to allow the name to stand.

The monopoly of the IOC/IPC has created many difficulties for the ICSD (International Committee of Sport for the Deaf) and its national federations, causing confusion and discord resulting in a lack of respect and recognition for Deaf athletes.

The 18th Winter Deaflympics will be in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, March 28th – April 7th 2015. Followed by the 23rd Summer Deaflympics in Sansun, Turkey, June 2017. Meanwhile, athletes and teams will be competing in regional and World championships.

I hope that through this short piece today, I have used Deaf Awareness week to raise some of the issues facing Deaf sport here in the UK and elsewhere around the world and I ask everyone to give their support to UK Deaf Sport in whatever way they can.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Women in Deaf Sport

The Twittersphere is a crowded place today with every opportunity to tweet the celebration of International Women’s Day.

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Here in the UK, the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation has launched its “Say Yes to Success” campaign to drive more commercial and media investment and attention to women’s sport. They plan to achieve this through investment and coverage of as many high quality events and competitions as possible.

According to WSFF, women’s sport only receives 0.4% of the total commercial investment in sport and only gets 7% of sports coverage by the media.

Today I am celebrating women in Deaf sport. I want to do this because I am concerned about the lack of deaf women taking up strategic roles in sport. UK Deaf Sport is currently recruiting for new Board members and we are very impressed with the high calibre of applications that we have attracted and we hope to be making some announcements later in the year. However, we need more women to apply for a place to help us go forwards.

Personally I don’t think we are communicating publicly how important women are to UKDS, perhaps people think we already have this sorted ? Maybe there is a lack of inspiration ? or there is a resignation that it remains a male dominated institution and it will be difficult to make an impact?

UK Deaf Sport has, up until now, always had women on its board of trustees, but both remaining women have tendered their resignations this year and we will not have replacements on the board at our AGM on 26th March.

I cannot stress how important it is that we have women represented at board level. There is so much that needs to be done and we need inspirational leaders to come and help us achieve our ambitions.

Did you know that at the first Deaflympics in Paris, 1924, there was only one woman competing. The pioneer of women was Hendrika Nicoline Van der Heyden (NED) who competed alone in the 100m backstroke swimming. According to Same Spirit Different Team  “Her event is probably, the first and only ‘walkover’ in the history of the Deaflympics.”

IMG_0533In the 2013 Summer Deaflympics, the majority of medal winners in the GB team were women. Athletic’s Melanie Hewitt, Lauren Peffers and the GB Womens Football team. The team was inspired by a charismatic Chef de Mission Fiona Brookes who was at the forefront from the moment she took on the role.

The CISS (Committee International Sports des Sourds) was the first international sports organisation to appoint a women, Maria de Bendeguz (VEN)  onto its Executive Committee in Koln 1981.

Donalda Ammons followed next as CISS Secretary General in 1997 and then succeeded John Lovett as President in 2005 and served until 2009 as she celebrated what was the most successful Deaflympic Games in terms of commercial and media coverage to date when the City of Taipei invested $200m of which $4.34m came from commercial sponsors and vastly increased media coverage which saw attendances rise from 12,00 in Melbourne 2005 to 278,884 in Taipei.

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Emile Sheng, CEO of the Taipei DOC said that the real ‘gold’ in staging the Deaflympics was not in the number of medals generated by the national Chinese Taipei team or the financial profit generated but by the raising of Taiwanese international profile, initiating a regeneration of Taipei City and, for the countries leading businesses, showcasing their products and services. Tony Phoo, an economist with Standard Chartered bank Taiwan PLC, observed:

Taiwan has long been seen primarily as a supplier of electronics components. This will change after the nations socio-economic development is displayed for all to see. (Brisebois 2009, p60 Same Spirit Different Team 2014)

The UK Deaf Table Tennis Association, this week has appointed Sereena Gilmour as its Chairperson. She is the mother of Deaflympian Nick Gilmour and the wife of the late John Gilmour who the UKDTTA owe a great debt to for his dedication and hard work.

IMG_1138Swimmer Danielle Joyce is currently enjoying sporting success breaking 3 world records at the EFDS National Juniors last week and destined to go further.

Like the WSFF, we need more media coverage of the Deaflympics. Same Spirit Different Team explains in detail how in 2001 the IOC contributed US$9m for the promotion of the 2008  Paralympics and US$14m for the 2010 and 2012 events but only 150,000 swiss francs for the Deaflympics to cover 2005-2009. The book suggests a plan of action.

Are We Going to the Paralympics?

Since the media misquoted IPC president Sir Philip Craven recently over reports that Deaf sports would be in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics I have been asked what is going on.

When i first read Craven’s comments I was doubtful about the accuracy of the report because those of us participating in international deaf sports politics know that the relationship between the IPC and the ICSD has not developed to the point where such agreements would be possible. 

The IOC recognises the Deaflympics as an event of equal status to the Paralympics. However, they have chosen, to put all their support, resources and energies behind the Paralympics and since 2001 the IOC and IPC have jointly organised their events together. This has meant millions of dollars from the IOC going into the IPC budget whilst a few thousands has been given to the ICSD.

A new book ‘Same Spirit, Different Team – The Politicalisation of the Deaflympics‘ will be available soon and will throw some light on the complex issues within the Olympic family of events, organisations and people. This book will be available from AD Books you can register for your copy here.Image

Why did you choose Rukhledev ?

A few days ago, Valery Rukhledev of Russia narrowly removed Craig Crowley to become the new president of the ICSD. 

It is a bizarre result because Rukhledev made no public commitment of his intentions or vision for the future, so what exactly have people voted for?

Perhaps you voted for Rukhledev and you can explain ? 

I wait to hear from you.

 

 

What are we learning from the Russians?

Eleven days ago I mentioned the three-way race for the Presidency of the ICSD, for the right to lead the Deaflympic movement for the next four years. 

At the time, we did not have much information from the Russian candidate Valery Rukhledev, that was, until yesterday, when there was a press release announcing that the Russian President Putin had given his support to Valery

Whilst it is  great to see a world leader of Putin’s standing recognise the importance of the Deaflympic games – we must not get  distracted.

We must focus on the real world and the real work at hand. We have an important decision to make and it must be made on the basis of a plan or manifesto that the candidate outlines for their term of office. Since my last blog, Barish has published his promise of “Global Change Through Sports” but, we still have nothing from Rukhledev, all we know is that just like Crowley and to some extent Barish he was an athlete and he has been a  leader for deaf -rights in his home country. But, what about his vision for global sport in relation to Deaf people? 

If you still have not made up your mind who you would vote for, here are the links to the candidates campaigns again.

Craig Crowley (GBR)

Valery Rukhledev (RUS)

Joel Barish (USA)

 

We only have eight days remaining before Congress make their decision, you the public can make your opinions known here. Your influence could make a difference. Let’s hear what you have to say.

The BBC Interview

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 !

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