Reflecting on Welsh Sporting Success

Kristy, a fluent Welsh Speaker resides in Cardiff with her family; her wife Elian and their children Macsen (18) and Ffion-Haf (14). Kristy, who works full time as a Specialist Teacher of Deaf Children & Young People, is currently working towards her British Sign Language level 4 qualification. Kristy herself knows the barriers faced by people who are Deaf, especially through sport. Her daughter was born profoundly Deaf and has herself already faced many challenging situations- all caused by her deafness.

Kristy is an avid sportsperson who plays international rugby for Wales Deaf; a squad of D/deaf women who recently took part in the Rugby 7’s World Cup Championships out in Cordoboa, Argentina. Both Wales’ men and women’s teams became double world champions! Wales women played Australia and won 36-0, they won against England 19-0 and beat England in the final, 34-0. Not conceding any points throughout the tournament!

Kristy says: “It has been an honour and a privilege to play in the Rugby World Cup Deaf 7’s out in Argentina. With family, work and other social commitments, training has been extremely demanding- with way too many 5am starts! However, it has all paid off as both the men’s and women’s teams have come home as World Champions. As a family, we have faced many challenging situations all caused by being Deaf. My hope is that we (as a team) have inspired the next generation of Deaf Children; to help them realise that they can achieve anything their hearing peers can and that there are no barriers when it comes to Deafness in sport”. A once in a lifetime experience for Kristy and one she says she will “cherish forever”.

Playing deaf rugby certainly has its challenges as Kristy describes how they have to remind their coaches about simple deaf awareness such as facing them (the players) when talking, ensuring they have everyone’s attention before coaching begins and repeating instructions. On the pitch Kristy says that the challenges continue during play when you are constantly trying to get each other’s attention by waving hands, shouting, and signing.

Kristy says that “Meeting other deaf players from other countries was such a wonderful experience too. It was perceived that we have been faced with difficulties communicating with our different signed languages, however, due to the visual nature of a signed language, there were very few barriers”.

Kristy, who has developed a social media platform called Hands2Hear, hopes to raise as much Deaf Awareness as possible. She says: “Deafness is an invisible disability, so it can be difficult with comments such as ‘you don’t look deaf’ or ‘you don’t sound deaf’ but Deafness has a huge spectrum. What people don’t understand is that there are different levels of Deafness ranging from mild to profound. There is a big misconception that Deaf people only use Sign Language in order to communicate. Communication methods and preferences vary from person to person- some only use sign language, others prefer to use speech and some Deaf people use both sign and spoken language. There is no one size fits all when it comes to Deafness!”

If there are any Deaf people interested in partaking in Deaf rugby, they are advised to contact: info@walesdeafrugby.co.uk

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