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In this month’s student column the author Stefanie Mitterlehner reflects on inclusion in sport, and invites you to learn sign language, enabling better experience in sport for the deaf and hard of hearing people.
In my opinion it goes without saying that social inclusion is very much required in all kinds and levels of sports, however it is still a long way to go. There are still many underrepresented groups in sport- women and people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, but especially people with disabilities. Therefore, it is our goal to increase the participation of these minorities in sport competitions and tournaments. We are happy and proud that EUSA is also active in the field, through participation in the project Inclusion in Sport – iSport, as well as everyday work and activities.
At this point I’d like to focus on one specific group of disabled people, namely the deaf and hard of hearing. The reason behind this is of a personal nature, because I recently started to learn sign language at my university in Innsbruck, Austria. Since then, I am constantly thinking about all the different aspects, but especially all the barriers that deaf and hard of hearing people are confronted with on a daily basis. And last but not least: How can we include them in the field of sports? Yes, there are Championships for deaf people and even Deaflympics. But how can we increase participation in sports for all? How can we guarantee equal access to sports?
While the iSport Project aims to answer these questions in the following two years, I would like to talk about what literally everybody can do to make the lives of deaf people a bit easier: learn sign language! But I must say straight away: in an ideal world everybody should know the whole sign language system, but from my personal experience I can tell you that you might want to just go slow! Wouldn’t it be great if you were finally able to congratulate someone on their victory or to wish someone luck? Or just to present yourself and your discipline? Learning sign language is the best way to develop awareness and sensitivity to the Deaf culture. Furthermore, learning a new language is not only good for your brain health, but it can open up new worlds for you. This effect is even stronger when learning sign language, since it requires to use other communication channels!
Stefanie is a member of the EUSA Student Commission, and is finishing her master’s degree in teacher education in physical education and Italian at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.