Education22nd April 2014

NDCS Listening Bus Visit to Machynys Golf Club

Combining the provision of deaf related information with a fun activity is a winning combination

by Sarah Lawrence

In 1996, the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) introduced the ‘Listening Bus’ to provide information and support to deaf children, their parents and professionals working with them. Since then, the bus has travelled extensively across the United Kingdom, giving access to a wide range of life changing advice and information.

When we learned about the bus visiting Machynys Golf course near Llanelli, where local deaf youngsters would be able to visit the bus and be introduced to golf in a joint venture with Golf Development Wales, we jumped at the chance to pay a visit ourselves, and to talk to some of the people involved.

Being set up by the NDCS Roadshow Co-ordinator Damian Ball, the pull-out sides to the small truck help provide a pop-up space suitable for giving presentations to small groups of people. Warm, welcoming and helpful from the outset, you could be mistaken into thinking this was Damian’s first time delivering the NDCS Roadshow – it certainly is not! As Damian explained, "The Bus goes all over the UK, Wales in March, Scotland in August, Yorkshire in June, staying for a month in each area. We usually go to schools, educating children about what the NDCS do and demonstrating various technologies. It is great to meet over 30 children at Machynys - a busy day. In addition we give information about NDCS events such as outdoor activities, arts for all deaf kids so that they can meet other deaf kids."

The first group of children, brought to the venue by members of the Carmarthenshire Hearing Impaired Unit, were already well into their golf session, with smiles readily on show as two of the professionals at the club put them through their paces. With visual games being used and a BSL interpreter on hand to help those children who used sign language, all the children were able to participate in these sessions. Mark Govier, golf professional at Machynys, and running the taster sessions told me, It's been going well so far. The sessions have been really good and it is nice to get the kids involved and they seem to be responding well to the instruction we have been giving." Commenting on the chidren's visit Anita Henry, a teaching assistant at the Queen Elizabeth High School in Carmarthen said, "I think it is brilliant that the children can come here to see the NDCS bus for the first time. Our children are very excited to be here to try out golf." 

It was great to see the collaboration between the NDCS, Carmarthenshire Council and Golf Development Wales coming together to provide deaf youngsters with information and advice, as well as promoting golf as accessible to deaf people.

Exposed to a small part ofthe game of golf, the youngsters involved were enjoying themselves and threw themselves energetically into the tasks the professionals set out for them. Commenting on the development of deaf golf more generally Mark Govier said, “It is the type of thing that kids with a hearing disability can still participate equally as well as anyone else. We are trying to make golf more inclusive and be available for everyone, so go to your local professional or driving range and try and get imnvolved."

The importance of this type of programme stems from the fact that there are over 45,000 deaf children living in the UK and 90% of those children are born into hearing families who have little or no experience of deafness. Consequently, many parents struggle to communicate well with their children and provide the type of developmental support that is so important during a child’s informative years.

This is where the NDCS come into their own, providing emotional and practical support through a range of different support lines. The Listening Bus is an extension of the NDCS services, taking information into the heart of communities across the UK. Jamie Rhys-Martin an NDCS family officer in Wales told me, "The Listening Bus is for deaf children to demonstrate various technologies to empower them to be independent, for example showing them how vibrating alarms and technology can be use to educate families."

Stepping inside the Listening Bus you are instantly struck by the level of information and technology devices that are available. There is a huge range of leaflets and all of the latest gadgets and gizmos to help deaf children manage different aspects of their lives. People who jump aboard the Listening Bus get to try out all the latest equipment.

The Listening Bus also support NDCS promotional campaigns and run workshops aimed at improving knowledge and understanding of people who touch the lives of deaf children. Last year’s campaign, Look, Smile, Chat was run for the hearing classmates of deaf students. Offering a range of tools to let people know what they can do to make communication better, Look, Smile, Chat was seeking to deal with an issue that is of central importance to deaf children.

This year’s campaign is one that is close to the heart of the majority of deaf people across the UK and is certainly one that I feel passionate about myself. Called My Life, My Health, the NDCS undertook consultation about young people’s experiences of the healthcare provision in the UK. As a result off the findings they have produced a range of resources to help healthcare professionals and others improve service provision to deaf youngsters.

Critically, the consultation found that deaf youngsters were missing out on vital healthcare information and are being forced to depend on family when they should be moving to independence.

Watching the children take part in the workshop, you can see just how captivated they are by the range of technology devices that are available to them. The Listening Bus carries examples of the following equipment:

  • Amplified telephones and flashing telephone alerts
  • Bluetooth neck loops for mobile phones, music and TV
  • Loop systems for TV and mobile phones
  • Music Link Ear hooks (for Ipods/MP3s/ laptops etc)
  • Text phones
  • Vibrating Alarm clocks
  • Smoke detectors
  • Flashing Doorbells
  • Personal paging systems alerting to home devices
  • Radio aids
  • Deaf Awareness DVDs

Reflecting on the students's visit I asked one of the students Shelley whether she liked golf. "I would like to try out golf as I've never done it before and I think it would help me with my confidence," she told me. The service provided by the Listening Bus is excellent. When combined with other deaf friendly activities such as the golf arranged through Golf Development Wales and the Hearing Impaired Team at Carmarthen Council, these deaf children were able to access information, advice and have fun at the same time.

For more information about My Life, My Health and to access the resources the NDCS have on offer, just go to Content is also available in BSL.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / Education

22nd April 2014