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May 2024

UK Deaf Sport and Coronavirus

As with many organisations and charities, UK Deaf Sport (UKDS) has had to adapt and look at different ways to the organisation’s objectives around supporting and enabling opportunities for deaf people to keep active.  This update aims to share our experiences over Coronavirus lockdown, some 8 weeks at the time of writing.

Back in March and in response to COVID-19, Sport England launched #stayinworkout which saw a huge increase in online sports and physical activities being provided and signposted to across the sector, a significant alternative to the traditional face to face delivery of sports and physical activity.

In response UKDS approach was to set up the hashtag #deafstayinworkout as a way for deaf people to easily find accessible activities, often delivered by deaf trainers/instructors but also those by hearing people who either use BSL and/or captions.

This was the right approach to take since UKDS is not a primary delivery organisation but instead works with its member organisations (e.g. deaf football and deaf basketball) and other partners across the sport and physical activity sector to make sure deaf people are made aware of and provided equal and accessible opportunities.

We reached out to numerous individuals in the field and quickly agreed a number of activities to be delivered online via grants, and a further number to be promoted using social media especially with the hashtag.  We also set out to continually learn and develop with the trainers/instructors about their needs and wants to deliver optimally.


There have been a number of challenges identified in this work which includes the following. 

We know that whilst doing sports online is not so new, it has been quite an experience for a large number of deaf participants.  It is being delivered or coached via the 2-D screen, e.g. iPad; you have to adjust the camera angle so that the tutor can see you.  If using Zoom, there’s also the decision whether to let others see you or if you want to see them; you can click on speaker view to only see the instructor/trainer.

There’s also the trainer’s challenges; offering something that works for everyone is difficult. Some are more ready than others. Some participants have additional issues, physical limitations.  There’s also the trainer’s confidence in promotion digitally, a lot of time has been spent to support their technical needs.

Being able to communicate out to as many deaf people across the UK about these digital and accessible activities remains a challenge. Is it our website? Social Media? We know people are “drowning in social media”.  Is it something else?

Another challenge is the process of booking places.  Eventbrite was seen as the favourite way, but some people are struggling to book.  We know that some prefer a simple email and book. Why not both?

Even more challenging is to get more hearing trainers/instructors to caption their online delivery. It was brilliant to see Cambridge Deaf Association’s BSL clips of Joe Wicks’ work – immediately shared on with #deafstayinworkout added.

Our most recent Comic Relief funded project in London has had to amend its objectives as a result of COVID-19, where Tyron Woolfe (project manager) has prioritised time and growth to the #deafstayinworkout with more grants allocated and activities.  We are also looking at using digital graphics to support some of the delivery, and more recently, vlogging by key deaf influencers out there.


Reaching out to deaf people digitally – some of us recognise that doing face to face events with deaf people, where people are required to travel to get to activities can be challenging. The increase in digital activity during lockdown is going to make a lot of key players wonder about the advantages and disadvantages of digital delivery.  We must always think about different ways of delivery, whilst remembering the importance of social integration and participation.

The data insofar tells us:

Via funding from Sport England UKDS has provided 385 places on 40 events, across 7 activities.  On average 100% of places have been booked.

A range of qualitative feedback has been fed to UKDS from the participants via their trainers – a lot of positive stuff and useful ideas to grow/develop further.

Further feedback is being sought from the trainers themselves, about their experience of UKDS support but also doing things digitally.

Most recently via funding from Comic Relief amended project, UKDS has provided 575 places on 62 events, across 11 activities.  We hope to do more.


We are a very small but growing slowly organisation with a few members of staff. We have funding and plans to grow our team in due course to ensure that we are doing everything possible including working with partners, deaf organisations and the Deaf community themselves to get every deaf person active and inspired in sport and physical activity.

Whilst this period of time has been unsettling and has disrupted our way of lives, UKDS continues to reflect and learn from everything we do including this data; the interactions with audiences both digitally and in person to shape and influence how we take forward the main strands of our work; Leadership, Participation and Performance. As we start to understand what our new ‘normal’ will look like, we look forward to leading the way and continuing our support to get every deaf person active and inspired by sport and physical activity.

Read article on the Limping Chicken Website or view BSL video here