Swimming is one of the sports deaf young people most want to take part in, with research by the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) showing that 69 per cent of deaf young people would like to swim more. However, the distance between a swimmer and a coach on the poolside, the acoustics of pools and the reliance on verbal information all pose barriers. While waterproof aids are available, they are rare and conventional hearing aids and cochlear implants have to be removed before entering the water. Swimming is a great way to get fit, build confidence and make new friends, as well as being a valuable life-saving skill, so it’s vital the deaf young people have the same access to swimming as their hearing peers.
Since launching the programme in July 2014, over 1000 swimming teachers and coaches have undergone deaf-awareness training online and more than 300 swimming professionals have attended face-to-face training in deaf-awareness and BSL. Of the professionals attending courses in person, 100 per cent told NDCS that they would recommend the training to colleagues and 75 per cent said they would do something different as a result. Deaf-friendly swimming lessons have launched in 11 locations across the UK, giving over 100 deaf young people the opportunity to learn to swim in an environment that is right for them, and meet other deaf children at the same. Over 50 deaf young people have taken part in deaf-friendly swimming galas, meeting deaf swimming role models and increasing their confidence to swim competitively. In May 2016, NDCS held a residential course to empower 16 deaf young people, all aged between 16 - 25 to become qualified assistant swimming teachers. The more deaf swimming teachers there are, the more children will have the opportunity to learn this life-saving skill. Hundreds of swimming organisations, schools and parents have benefitted from NDCS’s advice, support and expertise, as well as the charity’s wealth of resources such as waterproof BSL flip cards, BSL videos, information booklets and factsheets.