Sport for Hearing Impaired

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Having a Hearing Impairment or being Deaf, (whatever you prefer to call it) does not mean that you cannot take part in physical activities like Sport. In-fact sports or Disabled Sports in South Africa are both very popular & successful.

In general, the Deaf do not compete in the Olympics and Paralympics, there is no category for deaf athletes. The Deaf have their own Olympics called Deaflympics (previously called World Games for the Deaf, and International Games for the Deaf) These are an International Olympic Committee (IOC)-sanctioned event at which deaf athletes compete at an elite level.

Why we need "World Games for the Deaf", "Special Olympics" & "Paralympic Games"

In the world of international sports, there are the Olympic Games and competitions for disabled athletes, such as the Paralympic Games, World Games for the Deaf, and the Special Olympics. The Olympic Games, by its very nature, is not accessible to most disabled athletes, there are exceptions however, including:

  • Natalie du Toit: Single Amputee:  Swimming
  • Oscar Pistorius: Double Amputee:  Running
  • Terrance Parkin: Deaf:  exhaled in both swimming & cycling, & won a silver in swimming in the Olympic Games.

The formation of special competitions for athletes, who are physically or mentally disabled, or who are Deaf, has been of tremendous benefit to athletes who have never been given the opportunity to strive to reach the pinnacle of competition.

However, there is a common misconception among the non-deaf community that deafness is simply another form of disability; that it is a minority subgroup among the greater disabled community. This misconception has led to the question: Why do not all disabled athletes, including the Deaf, compete together in just one Games?

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The DeaflympicsDeaflympics

The Deaflympics (previously called World Games for the Deaf, and International Games for the Deaf) are an International Olympic Committee (IOC)-sanctioned event at which deaf athletes compete at an elite level. However, unlike the athletes in other IOC-sanctioned events (i.e., the Olympics, the Paralympics, and the Special Olympics), the Deaflympians cannot be guided by sounds (i.e., the starter's guns, bullhorn commands or referee whistles). The games have been organized by the Comité International des Sports des Sourds (CISS, "The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf") since the first event.

To qualify for the games, athletes must have a hearing loss of at least 55 db in their "better ear". Hearing aids, cochlear implants and the like are not allowed to be used in competition, to place all athletes on the same level. Other examples of ways the games vary from hearing competitions are the manner in which they are officiated. To address the issue of Deaflympians not being able to be guided by sounds, certain sports use alternative methods of commencing the game. For example, the football referees wave a flag instead of blowing a whistle; on the track, races are started by using a light, instead of a starter pistol. It is also customary for spectators not to cheer or clap, but rather to wave – usually with both hands.

History of Deaflympics

SADSF has participated in all the Deaflympic Games since 1993 and these games have become very popular amongst athletes in South Africa, with each and every athlete aspiring to be part Team South Africa. These aspirations alone are enough to push athletes to work hard at school, local, provincial and national competitions so as to be considered for selection.

The Deaflympics are held every four years, and are the longest running multi-sport event excluding the Olympics themselves. The first games, held in Paris in 1924, were also the first ever international sporting event for athletes with a disability. The event has been held every four years since, apart from a break for World War II, and an additional event, the Deaflympic Winter Games, was added in 1949. The games began as a small gathering of 148 athletes from nine European nations competing in the International Silent Games in Paris, France, in 1924; now, they have grown into a global movement.

Officially, the games were originally called the "International Games for the Deaf" from 1924 to 1965, but were sometimes referred to as the "International Silent Games". From 1966 to 1999 they were called the "World Games for the Deaf", and occasionally referred to as the "World Silent Games". From 2001, the games have been known by their current name Deaflympics (often mistakenly called the Deaf Olympics).

South African Deaf Sports Federation 

The SADSF currently promotes 10 sport codes, namely: Athletics; Cricket; Soccer; Netball; Volleyball; Golf; Table Tennis; Swimming; Squash; Cycling.South African Deaf Sports Federation

Most of these codes have their own structures and constitutions and are, as provided for in the SADSF Constitution, affiliated to the SADSF which is a National controlling body that facilitates the administration and coordination of each of these 10 Sport Codes to the highest level of excellence.

SADSF further has 9 constituted Provincial structures that are responsible for the identification and development of sporting talent for Deaf at grassroots level and also for the administering and coordination of sport for the Deaf at a Provincial level.

Deaf School Sport Commission, hereinafter referred to as the Commission, is a permanent Standing Committee of SADSF and its responsibility is to administer and coordinate sport for the Deaf at school level. It directly maintains working relationship with SASCOC School Sport Commission, National Coordinating Council (NACOC) - a Sub Directorate of Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) and Department of Education (DoE) in terms of implementation of school sport projects and policies. The Commission advices SADSF on matters affecting Deaf school sport and oversee the organizing of National Deaf School Games and Championships for Deaf athletes up to 19 years of age.

SADSF Constitution includes some basic objectives such as the provision of training, campaigning for better facilities and the organizing of sporting events. In the years that SADSF have existed, it has won respect and acclaim for the dedicated role it has played in the field of Deaf sport development in the country.

SADSF is affiliated to International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) or CISS as it is widely known around the world. SADSF was also affiliated to National Paralympics Committee of South Africa (NAPCOSA) which has now disbanded to pave the way for Disability Sport South Africa (DISSA) which has also been dissolved. As a result of the resolution of Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) Ministerial Task Team, the new body, namely; South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) was established and SADSF became an affiliated member of this body in 2005.

To contribute to the pride of Deaf athletes and to unite Deaf people from diverse cultures in South Africa, the medium of sport and sport participation remain one of the major tools and challenges of SADSF.

South African Deaf Games

South African Deaf Games take place biannually, depending on the availability of funds. Participation is open to all age groupings. The proviso is, however, that to qualify for participation, individuals or teams first need to have proven their qualifying status by prior achievements at formal provincial championships. Likewise, South African School Games for the Deaf also takes place biannually depending on availability of funds.

History of South African Deaf Athletics

South African Deaf Athletics was introduced in 1981 after the identification of the need for competition at school and club level between all Deaf athletes in South Africa. For the first time in history a South African Deaf Athletics Championship was held in 1981 in Worcester, Western Cape. Six schools for the Deaf and two Deaf sport associations participated. Later, this event expanded and the name changed to South African Summer Games for the Deaf. It was a beginning of a growth phase as more Deaf schools and associations became involved. At the 1994 South African Summer Games for the Deaf, about 30 Deaf schools and 4 Deaf sport associations participated.

Types of Sport

The Deaf athlete is physically able-bodied and able to compete without significant restrictions, with the exception of communication barriers. In team sports and some individual events, hearing loss can be limiting. However, these restrictions disappear in the Deaf Games. The sports and their rules are identical to those of able-bodied athletes. There are no special sports, and the only adaptations are to make auditory cues visible. For example, we use strobe lights for starting signals. Among the athletes allowed to compete in the Deaf Games there are no classifications or restrictions except for the requirement that each have a hearing loss of at least 55 decibels in the better ear. So even if you are Deaf, you can participate. So go out and get active!

Sports appropriate for my disability

Athletics & Swimming

Due to the fact that there is no category for the Deaf in the Paralympics, some deaf athletes have been known to compete in the Olympic Games in both Athletics & Swimming. Terrance Parkin who exhaled in both swimming & cycling, & won a silver in swimming in the Olympic Games for South Africa.

Both Athletics & Swimming in South African is governed by SASCOC " South Africa’s Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee." They not only help look after all our various National Federations who are affiliated to them, but are responsible for the awarding for National Protea Colours to athletes who have met the criteria to represent South Africa in these different sporting codes, however these sports are available to all who wish to participate.


Deaf Cricket & Football

Hearing disabilities are no obstacle to playing cricket or Football/Soccer. There is a minor difference between the so-called main-stream Cricket or Football/Soccer. The level of noise during the deaf sports and the main-stream match is huge. Also, the number of decibels is a main factor. The players involved in these teams should be able to encode up to 55 decibels of sound.


Deaf RugbySouth Africa deaf rugby

Deaf rugby players have been playing since the game first started to be played. A South African deaf rugby team first competed internationally back in 1995, when they toured New Zealand and beat the hosts 2-1 in a three-match series.

The South African Deaf Rugby Union (SADRU). Just like their able-bodied counterparts, the Springboks are aiming to be the best in the world.

Tournaments include The Deaf Rugby World Cup & The World Deaf rugby Championship, as well as hosting and taking part in international tours to England, Wales, New Zealand, etc.


Golf & Bowls

Both Deaf Golf & Bowls are available to all individuals Hearing Impairments in South Africa. Hearing disabilities are no obstacle to playing Golf & Bowls. There is a minor difference is the level of noise during the deaf sports and the main-stream game is huge. The number of decibels is also a main factor. The players involved in these teams should be able to encode up to 55 decibels of sound. Both sports are played at social, club & Provincial level, as well as at International level.



Paragliding is the recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing comprising a large number of interconnected baffled cells. Wing shape is maintained by the suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing, and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.

Despite not using an engine, a paragliders flight can last many hours and cover many hundreds of kilometers, though flights of one to two hours and covering some tens of kilometers are more the norm. By skillful exploitation of sources of lift, the pilot may gain height, often climbing to altitudes of a few thousand meters. Paragliding takes allot of skill and hours of practice, but this does not mean that you can't enjoy the thrill of paragliding even if you have a disability.

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Scuba Divingdisiabled scuba diving logo

Scuba Diving is a very popular recreational activity for disabled & able people all across the world, not to mention in our beautiful waters & climate of South Africa. If you love the weightless feeling you get when swimming, then scuba diving may be a great sport for you. Being Deaf or having a hearing disability should not prevent you from trying Scuba Diving. The Handicapped Scuba Association promotes scuba diving around the world. They cater for a wide variety of disabilities, including the deaf or hard of hearing. Each year they also plan scuba trips to exotic locations led by specially trained scuba divers and individuals who are wheelchair users so that you are ensured a safe and comfortable scuba experience.

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Tennis & Table Tennis

Tennis & Table Tennis are both played at social, club & Provincial level, as well as at International level. Both sports are competed in at the Deaflympics Games. The players however should be able to encode up to 55 decibels of sound to compete here. Hearing disabilities are no obstacle to playing these sports. There is a minor difference between this version and the so-called main-stream version, but both these sports the rules remain the same. The level of noise during the deaf sports and the main-stream match is huge.


Please send us information on any other sport.


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