[Kielly] Hi, my name is Ki. I play football and I'm Deaf.
I identify as Deaf, but not profoundly or culturally deaf because I use hearing aids and I'm actively involved in both the deaf and the hearing world.
[Alisha] My name is Alisha and I am Deaf. I describe myself as Deaf because I was born with severe hearing loss. I am able to get by with a little hearing with the help of my hearing aid. So I suppose that might be a bit confusing to people. Some people might think, "Oh, that's hard of hearing". But personally, I identify as Deaf.
So the difference between deaf and hard of hearing is the level of hearing loss. And also whether that individual requires a cochlear implant or a hearing aid.
[Kielly] Really, there are some similarities. People in the Deaf community identify as a cultural and linguistic minority who use sign language to communicate. They may or may not use technologies like hearing aids or cochlear implants or strategies like lip reading or speech to communicate.
Deaf people can miss out on a lot of things that non-deaf people easily access, which means we are left behind and have to work to catch up. And it can be a hard barrier to manage. For example, day-to-day things like the radio. I can't hear the radio. So I have to rely on social media to access the news and catch up with what's been going on.
[Alisha] Some of the challenges that I face in sport with my hearing loss is being able to hear behind me or around me. So we don't have, like, an audio spatial awareness, but it's more visual. So we depend on a lot of visual cues. When I'm playing sport, it can be very difficult or frustrating to not be able to see what's being said. It's very important to be able to lip read and have a clear line of vision to whoever's speaking at the time.
[Kielly] The best way that coaches can support me as a Deaf person is understanding how I communicate. For example, I use Auslan interpreters. So when the coach understands how to work alongside interpreters, communication becomes clear and smooth between myself, the coaches, and the other players.
[Alisha] My advice for young boys and girls who are deaf or hard of hearing who are looking to getting into sports or AFL, I would encourage them to look into the Auskick program. Definitely give it a go.
[Kielly] My advice to coaches with deaf players would be, try and be patient. Give people time to communicate with you. And if one way doesn't work, try to be creative. Try to mime to explain what they need to do.
[Alisha] Some of the visual aids that a coach could use could be a whiteboard, especially a whiteboard that's already laid up with, you know, like the lines of the field and all that sort of stuff just to easily mark where the players go. Other visual aids might be a card or something to be able to communicate with the players on the field.
[Kielly] I have taught my teammates some basic Auslan and they were really keen to learn and understand the Deaf experience. It had a big impact on them which is why I know it's really important to make sure everyone understands what is happening. Now my teammates can sign "Come here", "He said kick", "They're slow", or "Run". Simple things like that make a huge difference.
[Alisha] These are our stories, but everyone's story will be different.
[Kielly] In the next section, you'll learn tips for how to support young people who are deaf participate in footy.
[Alisha] For example, visual signs or gestures can be used to start, stop and umpire activities.
What does deaf and hard of hearing mean?
The term ‘Deaf’ (upper case D) describes individuals who communicate using Australian Sign Language (Auslan). These individuals identify as part of the signing Deaf community. This community is like an ethnic group with its own language and culture. Deaf people often do not consider themselves ‘hearing impaired’.
The term ‘deaf’ (lower case d) describes the physical condition of having a hearing loss. It can be used to describe anyone with a hearing loss, including those who use Auslan.
The term ‘hard of hearing’ is used to describe individuals who experience mild or moderate hearing loss, or develop hearing loss in late childhood or adulthood. These individuals might use spoken language, lip-reading, or hearing aids to communicate. Some individuals who are hard of hearing may prefer the term ‘hearing impaired’.
Using the wrong word to describe a person’s hearing can be offensive, so it is important to ask the young person or their parent which group they identify with if you are going to use these terms at footy.
By providing a safe and supportive environment, you can help keep young people who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing engaged and safe. With a little planning, you can ensure they have enriching opportunities to make friends, learn new skills and participate in the footy fun.
What might this look like on the footy field?
Players who identify as d/Deaf or hard of hearing may have different ways of communicating. They may need your support to hear spoken instructions, or see visual gestures or signs, and to practise and play.
Before the session
Talk to the player and their parents and find out what you can do to make communication as easy as possible. Ask them at the start of the season how to appropriately get the player’s attention when you speak.
Get creative and make a visual schedule for each session that young people who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing can see at all times so they know what’s coming up next. This can support players to transition from one activity to the next without verbal instructions. You could use a whiteboard or flipchart.
Encourage coaches, volunteers, officials and players to learn basic Auslan skills and practice them regularly. For example, learn signs for handpass, kick and mark.
Try to find a young adult role model who is d/Deaf or hard of hearing who could assist your program, if you have players who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing in your group.
During the session
Young people who lip-read will understand instructions more easily if they can clearly see your face. Avoid standing with sun or bright light behind you, as this may put your face in shadow.
Ask the player what works best for them. For example, this might be standing to one side of the coach, or it might be directly in front of you.
If you are in the player’s line of vision, use gestures (eg. waving or beckoning) so they know you have something to say. It can also be appropriate to use light physical touch, like a tap on the arm or shoulder, to get a young person’s attention before speaking.
Reducing background noise will make it easier for the player to hear instructions. Young people who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing may have some level of hearing.
Speak clearly, but do not shout or change the inflection of your speech. Be careful not to talk down to the player.
Make instructions simple. Try to limit instructions to 2-3 steps at a time.
Do this in a discreet way so that the player doesn’t feel singled out. Agree on an approach for this with the player at the start of the season. For example, you can ask the player to nod when they have understood instructions, or to put their hand on their shoulder if they have not understood.
Use your basic Auslan skills in training sessions so that everyone becomes comfortable using it any time.