Deaf Awareness Week 2024: UK Deaf Sport on supporting more deaf individuals to be active

UK Deaf Sport logo ()

This week (6-12 May) is Deaf Awareness Week, and we spoke to Shannon Howarth, Partnerships Manager at UK Deaf Sport, who are a member of the Alliance. Their mission is to provide opportunities for more deaf people to participate in sport throughout their lives and more deaf athletes to perform on the world stage.

Deaf Awareness Week in the UK is not just about raising awareness; it is about fostering understanding, promoting inclusivity, and celebrating the achievements of the deaf community.

This week serves as a platform to educate, advocate, and recognise the diverse experiences and talents within the deaf community. One avenue through which empowerment and inclusivity are championed during this week is through sports and physical activity.

What is Deaf Awareness Week?

Deaf Awareness Week was established by the UK Council on Deafness to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the deaf community and to educate on ways to offer support.

One in five adults in the UK are deaf, have hearing loss or have tinnitus, that is approximately 12 million people according to the Royal National Institute for Deaf People.

The experience of being deaf presents distinctive challenges, which often affect mental well-being and increase feelings of isolation. With such high numbers of people experiencing these challenges, it is important to increase understanding and awareness across the population so we can build a more inclusive society.

The Role of Sport and Recreation

Sport and Recreation provides huge benefits which go beyond physical fitness and is a space for socialisation, and personal development for all participants – the role of sport is therefore highly impactful for deaf individuals.

According to Sport England Active Lives Survey (2023), 53% of deaf adults do less than 30 minutes of sport or physical activity a week. People who are deaf are twice as likely to experience mental health problems compared to people without hearing loss (Royal National Institute for Deaf People).

Sports offer opportunities for deaf individuals to connect with peers, build friendships, and develop a sense of community. Team sports provide a supportive environment where deaf participants can communicate, and bond with teammates, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie. Sports provide a context where deaf individuals can communicate effectively using a variety of methods, including sign language, visual cues, and facial expressions. In sports settings, communication barriers are often overcome through innovative strategies and teamwork, promoting inclusivity and mutual understanding among athletes.

What is the role of UK Deaf Sport?

UK Deaf Sport is the national governing body and charity for all deaf sport and physical activity in the UK. Their vision is to get every deaf person active and inspired by sport and physical activity. They have a mission to get more deaf people participating in sport throughout their lives and more deaf athletes performing on the world stage.

As many barriers to participation remain, organisations like UK Deaf Sport (UKDS) stand as beacons of inclusivity and empowerment. Established with a mission to promote and develop sports opportunities for deaf individuals across the UK, UKDS has been instrumental in breaking down barriers, fostering understanding, and amplifying the voices of deaf athletes.

To ensure all sport and physical activity opportunities are deaf friendly, UK Deaf Sport in 2023 launched their ‘Deaf People’s Inclusion in Sport’ eLearning course, which empowers learners to feel confident in reaching and engaging with people who are deaf and hard of hearing by understanding their experiences and the barriers they face.


UK Deaf Sport infographic ()


How does UK Deaf Sport support more deaf individuals to be active?

UK Deaf Sport promote opportunities for the deaf community to be active through:

  • Activity Finder – a platform where clubs or organisations can advertise their deaf friendly sessions and activities.
  • Volunteer Platform – where they promote positive role models and opportunities to get involved as a volunteer.

UK Deaf Sport also support both Deaf Sport Organisations and other Sport Organisations to increase awareness and opportunities whilst ensuring they are inclusive for the whole deaf community.

In 2023 through the Sport England Together Fund, UK Deaf Sport funded 13 organisations to deliver sport and physical activity programmes to their local deaf community.

To engage the least active members of the deaf community, UK Deaf Sport funded some projects delivered by non-sporting organisations who have local connections to local systems

As well as programmes being delivered by established deaf sport groups to sustain activity and upskill members of the deaf community.

Bolton Deaf Society / Deaf Asian Women’s Walking Group Case Study

Sport England Together Fund Case Study - ELREM Foundation Rowing Project

Sport England Together Fund Case Study – Surbiton Badminton Club

How can sports organisations become more inclusive of deaf athletes?

When delivering sessions and activities for the deaf community, we would always suggest speaking to deaf participants to understand their communication needs and any other support they may require as this can differ from person to person.

UK Deaf Sport has a variety of resources that can support sport organisations to become more inclusive: including a ‘Deaf People’s Inclusion in Sport’ eLearning offer and top tips in how to be accessible. To further your learning, you can also practice British Sign Language by using our BSL Compilations.

If you have been inspired by Deaf Awareness Week, please visit to find out more about UK Deaf Sport and how they could support your organisation to be more inclusive.