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Adapting leisure activities

Photo: Simple adaptations can make your activities accessible for deaf kids

There are many ways that you can make small and simple adaptations to make your activities accessible for deaf children and young people. You'll need to be aware of any reasonable adjustments that they might need.

Reasonable adjustments

Organisations and service providers have a duty to make adjustments in order to ensure that deaf children and young people who use their services or are volunteers or employees are not placed at a substantial disadvantage. This duty is part of The Equality Act which makes it a requirement that reasonable adjustments are made to ensure equal access to opportunities in all of society.

What is ‘reasonable’ cannot be defined as it will depend on the context and will differ from one provider to the next, depending on cost and practicality.

For example, it may be reasonable to expect a commercial theatre to provide an induction loop but for a small community drama group, the cost in relation to the group’s budget may be considered unreasonably high.

No charge should be made to parents or the deaf young person for any reasonable adjustment.

More examples of reasonable adjustments in leisure settings:

  • group leaders being asked to ensure that they face the deaf child when speaking so that the child is able to lip-read
  • a theatre agreeing to install an induction loop in the auditorium
  • a netball referee using flags or agreed gestures alongside their whistle to enable deaf children to receive a visual signal at the same time that hearing children hear the whistle
  • a dance teacher switching the music off whenever they talk over the routine with their students
  • a swimming coach using flashcards with visual signs of what they would like their swimmers to do next.

Health and safety

It is against the law to refuse a child or young person on the basis that they are deaf. Although health and safety is paramount, it is not a good enough reason on its own to prevent a deaf child from attending your activity. The only exception would be if you have considered all the possible adjustments and undertaken a full in-depth risk assessment that concludes you cannot make the activity safe for the child.

It is an anticipatory duty, which means the Equality Act covers both those who are currently taking part in activities and those who may take part in the future. You will therefore have to consider what adjustments need to be put in place before a deaf child or young person joins your activities or workplace, rather than waiting until they have joined you. This can range from inexpensive or cost-free adaptations to more significant alterations, to the delivery of an activity or provision of equipment.

Learn more about the law

Tips for involving a deaf child or young person in activities

  • Tips for involving a deaf child or young person in activities Get children’s attention by using visual clues, like raising your arm.
  • Stay in one place, and keep eye contact when talking.
  • Give out brief, simple instructions and explain topics you will cover.
  • Use as little jargon as possible and stick to one point at a time.
  • Use demonstrations to increase understanding, and don’t talk at the same time.
  • Use pre-agreed visual signals for different actions (for example, 'stop!').
  • Visual timetables help the group know what is going to happen and helps with context.
  • Write things down, use a flipchart or carry a notebook for outdoor activities.
  • Consider how to store technology, such as hearing aids (if needed), and make use of quiet rooms or areas to deliver instructions.
  • Consider the position of you and the interpreter, make sure you’re next to each other where possible, and that there is enough light to see what is being said.
  • Repeat other young people’s contributions to the session so it’s clear what your answer is in reference to.
  • Check for understanding and allow time for a Q&A.
  • Make use of visual aids, such as whiteboards and flags for diagrams, instructions, scores or whistles.
  • Have a run through or practice go before the real thing.
  • Make others such as coaches, assistants and activity leaders aware there is a deaf child or young person in the group.

Adapting activities

Involving volunteers

Volunteers add value and without them, many youth activities would not exist. They can also provide the group with additional support to be deaf-friendly.

For example, volunteer communicators can be recruited to sign for a deaf child who uses BSL, Signed Supported English (SSE) or Signed English (SE). There are different levels of and interpreters. For events and activities, we strongly recommend providing a level three communicator or interpreter.

Remember all deaf children and young people are individual and not all require communication support. It is really important to check with the deaf child or young person and their parents first before making any assumptions! If you are unsure what type or level of communication support you need to book, we’d be happy to help. For advice, please email [email protected].