Day Trips2nd July 2015

The Safety Requirements Of Rope Climbing Make It More Deaf Friendly

Exciting, thrilling and even enjoyable, communication was effective because of a good attitude

by Sarah Lawrence

A bit of a daredevil in my youth, I still enjoy pushing myself and trying out new things, especially if there is a hint of danger involved. When my daughter told me she would like to do something like out of bounds for her birthday last week, I thought it was an ideal opportunity to try something new. Having talked about a few different options, we decided to look around for some rope climbing.

By coincidence, within days of that discussion, I saw a Groupon advert for the Aerial Adventure at the Summit Centre in South Wales, a climbing and out of bounds centre just south of Merthyr in the South Wales valleys that is run by Rock UK Adventures.

Booking places and paying for 12 people easily on-line, the website provided lots of information, including excellent directions to get there.

Last Saturday at high noon, the twelve intrepid adventurers arrived at the centre along with a couple of hangers on who wanted to keep their feet firmly on the floor. The aerial adventure did not look frightening, but at 8.5 metres above the ground, I still didn’t fancy taking a tumble.

Going into the reception area, I can could see a fantastic indoor climbing area and there were lots of other activities with different levels of difficulty, making the facility accessible to just about anyone. I let the staff at the centre know that I was Deaf, an issue they embraced without the slightest hint that it was a problem to them. That was a welcome change!

Getting our harnesses and helmets, the staff explained to my group how to use the equipment, the main guide maintaining eye contact with me and ensuring I understood his instructions. Because of the danger of falling, this activity became even more deaf friendly, as the guide went around every person in my group checking they had put the harness on properly.

Turning to the helmets, the guide not only gave a voice instruction about how to put it on, but also showed everyone how to do it, the showing again making his instruction deaf friendly. Using hand gestures, he beckoned us outside and we followed him across to the aerial adventure. 

Climbing up some steps to the starting platform, the guide again explained the safety procedures for the activity and gave some advice on getting around it. He once again maintained good eye contact with me, constantly looking for signs of understanding from me. With safety so important on this type of activity, communication is essential, not only the instructions but recognition that they have been understood.

Kitted out, properly briefed and with some of my group already braving the course, I could not turn back now, I was committed and had to give it a go.

Some of the younger members of the group (I am double the age of all of the others taking part) quickly made their way out onto the activity and apart from one or two who are blessed with good balance, it seemed to be pretty difficult. I waited until the very end before I made my way onto the rope course, and as someone without good balance, i would have fallen to the floor very quickly had it not been for the safety harness.

Treading carefully, I slowly made my way across a Burma Bridge, stepping logs, swinging logs, a cargo net, all negotiated at a snail’s pace and desperate not to look down. Looking up to a 8.5 metre rope course, it didn't look too bad at all, but looking down, it seemed a long way to fall. Despite knowing the harness would stop you falling, it was still difficult not to cling on for grim death if you lost your footing, something I seemed able to to do with great regularity as my natural instinct to preserve my own life kicked in time and again. Needing to be 1.2 metres in height to take part, I could see why now as my legs never seemed long enough to stretch to the next obstacle.

The rest of my group went around the course twice, but once was enough for me, in fact the last challenge to the finish was too much for me and I had to get the help of the guide to help me finish the course. I had enjoyed it, but my heart had been racing and I think I concentrated more throughout the activity than I have ever done before.

It was certainly something I could enjoy doing with both my children, other family members and their friends. It was all done in an environment where the staff could accommodate my communication needs because of the frequency they use manual communication in these types of activities and the in-built requirement to make sure their customers understand what has been said.

For me, it just showed that in an organisation where communication is prioritised because it is essential to safety, attitudes are so much better. The rest of my family enjoyed it too, and I think they enjoyed sneaking a quick glance at my terrified face!!

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Entertainment / Day Trips

2nd July 2015