Charity’s advice to sports clubs and gyms

WITH many people being inspired by the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics to get fit and more involved in sports, Action on Hearing Loss is urging sports clubs and gymnasiums in Northern Ireland to ensure they are fully accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act, services must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to be accessible to people with disabilities. This means that managers of sports clubs and gymnasiums must ensure that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can enjoy the same level of service as other customers.

However, not all clubs and gyms are as accessible as they should be – for example, people with hearing loss often find it difficult to follow speech in gyms when there is loud background music, or there can be problems keeping up with sporting instructors who haven’t been trained in deaf awareness.

Chief Executive of Action on Hearing Loss, Paul Breckell, says: “There are big hopes that the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics will leave a lasting legacy and we hope that people with hearing loss in Northern Ireland will be given a sporting chance to excel or simply enjoy getting fit or participating in tournaments at their local clubs and gyms. It’s vital that venue managers recognise their legal responsibilities and make the simple adjustments that are needed to meet the individual needs of sports enthusiasts with hearing loss.”

Action on Hearing Loss is encouraging sports clubs and gyms to be more accessible by following the charity’s deaf awareness tips:

Ensure staff are trained in basic deaf awareness.

Install a hearing loop in reception for hearing aid wearers, and regularly check that it’s working and staff are trained how to use it.

Make sure you have the person’s attention before you start speaking.

Places with good lighting (so that you can be lipread) and little or no background noise are best for conversations.

Face the person so you can be lipread and speak clearly, using plain language, normal lip movements and facial expressions.

Check whether the person understands what you are saying and, if not, try saying it in a different way.

Keep your voice down as it’s uncomfortable for a hearing aid user if you shout and it looks aggressive.

Provide a registered sign language interpreter for people who communicate by British Sign Language (BSL).

For information about deaf awareness, visit