On Thursday 30th July, 7 coaches from a range of sports came together to take part in Sense’s workshop around delivering sport to deafblind people. The workshop- the first of its kind to take place- was hosted at Holford Drive Community Sports Club, a community and volunteer-led sports facility in the North of Birmingham.
Delivered by Interactive- a London based organisation promoting disability equality in sport- the workshop aimed to equip local sports organisations and practitioners with the knowledge and understanding required to deliver their activities more inclusively to deafblind people.
Following introductions and an ice breaker task, the coaches- who between them had expertise in delivering yoga, swimming and multi-sport activities- engaged in a range of theory and practical activities as well as a good amount of group discussion.
Currently, there are only a small number of sports organisations working with deafblind people, and it was noted by a number of coaches prior to the workshop that they wouldn’t feel 100% confident delivering their sport to a deafblind person. It became apparent however that throughout the workshop, the sharing of concerns, ideas and solutions to working with deafblind groups enriched the coaches’ learning. They felt more confident about delivering to deafblind people as a result. The impact of allowing group discussion was highlighted by a number of coaches, who commented that the “group conversation was extremely useful and informative” and they benefited from “the amount of shared learning”.
Over the day, the coaches worked together in teams to discuss issues such as barriers to involving deafblind people in sport, methods of communication with deafblind people, and approaches to making their own activities more accessible to deafblind participants.
The course aimed to highlight that there is so much more to think about than simply arranging a session and putting up a poster to advertise it. Throughout the workshop, coaches were asked to question providing an accessible venue, ways in which to advertise and market their sport to deafblind people, and reasons why a deafblind person may not feel like they can take part.
With each barrier and question the discussion threw up, participants were challenged to find a solution or an adaptation. They were reminded that there is no definitive way to work with deafblind people in sport, and it is often about learning to make adaptations based on the needs of the individual taking part.
This was all brought together in the afternoon activity- an outdoor football session where participants had the chance to experience first-hand the impact of a dual-sensory loss on sports participation.
Wearing vision-restricting goggles and sound blockers, participants attempted to play an ordinary game of football, and quickly discovered the challenges posed by having limited sight and hearing.
They were then asked about ways in which the activity could be adapted so it was suitable for a deafblind person to take part. Ideas included reducing the sight and vision of other seeing and hearing participants, giving a deafblind person a specific role which is suited to them, and adding certain conditions to the game including slowing it down to walking pace.
Tactile communication with the environment was also encouraged and practiced throughout, to reinforce the importance of discovering layout, equipment and whereabouts of others using touch.
Although discussing these issues is important, practical activities are vital so that sports coaches experience issues for themselves. This will enable them to use this practical experience during their coaching. Participants noted this, stating that they “enjoyed the experience with the goggles and ear muffs”, and it helped with “understanding the needs of deafblind people”
Following on from this workshop, it is hoped that this good practice will be shared amongst the sports coaching community across the Midlands. This will lead to venues being more mindful of deafblind needs, putting on more activities for deafblind people and adapting them in ways which they can access and enjoy, achieving the ultimate goal of getting more deafblind people accessing regular sport.