A leading children’s deaf charity has partnered with a local charitable leisure trust to deliver deaf-friendly swimming lessons to children and young people.

The new initiative, delivered by Sport Aberdeen in association with the National Deaf Children’s Society, will see aquatics instructors working closely with deaf children to build water confidence in an appropriate setting.

All Sport Aberdeen aquatics instructors involved with the course have attended a workshop to learn about how they can ensure deaf young people are fully included in swimming activities.  

Swimming is one of the sports deaf children say they most want to take part in, however hearing assistive technology such as hearing aids and cochlear implants must be removed. This combined with a noisy swimming pool environment and the need to understand coaches from a distance, mean swimming can pose a number of challenges and additional barriers for deaf young people.

One of the young people to benefit from the Deaf-Friendly Swimming Project is Harry. After going through a difficult time at school and feeling isolated, Harry from Musselburgh attended a free 10 week course of swimming lessons for deaf young people at Portobello Swim Centre in Edinburgh and it transformed how he feels about swimming.

Harry’s mum Kerry said: “They taught him how to dive, how to swim underwater and they did lifesaving as well. He did amazingly well.”

“It gave me a huge boost in my confidence,” adds Harry. “When he had lessons before, the swim teacher didn’t have any deaf-awareness training and, for him, it was just someone shouting at the edge of the pool and he couldn’t benefit like his friends” says mum Kerry. “Now having deaf aware teachers has made all the difference.”

There are sure to be many more stories like this in the coming months from the Granite city. Swimming lessons commence at Tullos and Beach Leisure Centre at the end of October and run for 10 weeks.

Commenting, Sport Aberdeen Director for Business Development, Jill Franks said:

“Sport Aberdeen is committed to creating opportunities for everyone to take part in sport and physical activity. All the teachers who will be involved have learned how to make small and simple changes to make activities deaf-friendly. 

“This included developing confidence communicating with deaf children and young people through basic British Sign Language and lots of swimming specific signs.

“The new lessons are suitable for all swimming abilities from complete beginners to confident swimmers and will be taught at two locations in Aberdeen. “

Eleanor Connelly, Swimming Development Officer for the National Deaf Children’s Society, added

“Our resources and workshop, teach instructors that by making small and simple changes to swimming activities, such as using visual aids, swimming teachers and coaches can ensure that deaf young people have the same access to swimming as their hearing peers.

“We are delighted that Sport Aberdeen is working with us to run these important sessions.  They are a great opportunity for deaf children and young people to improve their swimming skills in a fun and sociable environment.

“Far too many deaf young people are being denied the opportunity to swim because many swimming providers don’t know how to meet their needs. Being able to swim is not only a life-saving skill, great fun and fantastic for building confidence, it also opens up a whole world of water-based activities such as scuba diving, rowing, surfing and sailing.”