(Supplied: Deaf Sports Australia) ABC Goulburn Murray
October 13, 2017 13:09:08
The Australian Deaf games welcomes participants across a wide range of ages.
Deafness is no barrier to enjoying a range of sports. (Supplied: Deaf Sports Australia)
Ms Beaver said it was encouraging to see the 2018 host city embracing all aspects of the Games.”The Australian Deaf Games has been hosted in other cities throughout the country, so up until now this is really the first time that this is going to be a deaf friendly game, because we haven’t provided deaf awareness as such to the host cities.”This is why we’re seeing a lot more enthusiasm from the community welcoming deaf participants to the Games,” he said.Competing in silenceAustralians have been competing in the Australian Deaf Games since 1964.All athletes, most officials, and the majority of visitors are deaf or hard of hearing.Many deaf athletes participate in sports with very little, if any, modifications.But with sound playing a large role in many sports, technology and tactics are often employed for deaf or hard of hearing athletes to fairly play the game or compete.Starting pistols that are used in competitions like swimming and running are often replaced with lights, flags, and some competitors even rely on a tap on the shoulder from an official.Competitors also need to identify different flags that indicate fouls or mark time rather than listen for a whistle, and learn to communicate with team mates while actively competing. In their desire to make participants in next year’s Australian Deaf Games feel as welcome as possible, hundreds of residents of host cities Albury and Wodonga are learning sign language.The demand is so high for classes in Auslan — short for Australian sign language — that many people have been put on waiting lists.Vicdeaf’s Languages, Partnership and Innovation Director Brent Phillips said it was encouraging to see so many people eager to learn Auslan ahead of the Games.”It’s part of a trend across Australia as more people become interested in learning the language and connecting with the deaf community,” Mr Phillips said.”The classes are filling up quite rapidly so it shows there is a genuine appetite within the general community to learn Auslan.””Our enrolment numbers have skyrocketed and a lot of classes are at maximum capacity and we do have waiting lists, and it’s a great problem to have.”The more people that can sign the more accessible and inclusive the Australian community and Australian society will be.”‘Deaf friendly’ destinationsOrganisers of the Games are hoping to the turn Albury and Wodonga into “deaf friendly” destinations.The Games will see around 1,000 deaf and hard of hearing participants travel to the region, as they compete in 15 different sporting events from January 20-27.The games will be the first-time deaf awareness will actively be promoted alongside sport.The event will inject millions of dollars into the local economy, but Albury mayor Kevin Mack said it was exciting to know that the region would benefit in so many other ways.”It’s also a chance for the local community to further embrace the deaf community and to learn how to enhance the experience for the visitors,” Councillor Mack said.”The games will leave a legacy that will benefit many of us for a lifetime.”Connecting communitiesDeafness can often lead to a sense of isolation, so connection and communication with others plays an important role in the deaf community to help promote health and wellbeing.Deaf Sports Australia Marketing and Communication co-ordinator Sherrie Beaver is deaf and has seen first-hand the power of sport in breaking down barriers for the deaf community.”It’s really vital because sport has a different way of communicating, all sports do,” she said.”You can use gesture, mime, you don’t have to rely on speech so much or hearing.”When you’re playing a sport you’re part of a team so they all need to communicate on the same level.”Sports breaks through those barriers for deaf and hard of hearing people, so they can participate on an equal basis as everyone else.”
Competitors at the Deaf Games often need to look for flags from umpires, rather than listen for a whistle. (Supplied: Deaf Sports Australia)