Hearing impairment not obstacle for athletes
“While playing sports, we have no difference from the people who can hear, all the equipment is the same, we are equal,” said Yakup Umit Kihtir, head of Turkish Sports Federation of People with Hearing Impaired (TIESF).
Speaking in Turkish Sign Language (TID) on the occasion of the International Day of Sign Languages, Kihtir was interpreted by Umut Tufan, a sign language translator.
Sports provide deaf people with many opportunities to improve themselves, improve their knowledge and meet new people, Kihtir stressed.
“Being deaf in Turkey means being part of a community that covers 1% of the entire population,” Kihtir said, adding: “Although we are small in number, we can come together and know each other at organizations."
“We have many obstacles in life. For example, a deaf individual cannot communicate without an interpreter, but while playing sports, there is no need for an interpreter. We all speak the same language, from meetings to chats,” he said.
Achievements of Turkish deaf athletes
Kihtir said there is a huge support for athletes who have hearing ability, lamenting that those with hearing impairment are not equally well known.
“There are many achievements of deaf athletes, but we cannot announce them ourselves. We play the same sport, we follow the same rules,” Kihtir said, adding that there are many deaf professional athletes in sports -- including football, basketball, volleyball and even bowling.
Kihtir went on to say that deaf athletes can also compete alongside those who have hearing ability such as Yasin Suzen, a sprinter who came in first in Deaflympics organized in Turkey’s Black Sea Samsun province.
“He was later transferred to Athletics Federation due to his success,” he added.
A total of 3,148 athletes from 97 countries attended 23rd Deaflympics held in Samsun in June, 2017. Turkish athletes won 27 gold, 7 silver and 26 bronze medals.
A closer look at TIESF
Kihtir said he started his professional career as a national swimmer.
“When I became head of the federation, I could see the deficiencies better and understand athletes better.
“The athletes agreed with the instructors on technical issues and contacted me about personal issues. Thus, we started to use more interpreters at organizations,” Kihtir added.
Kihtir also advises everyone to learn a sign language as part of being a “good and conscientious person”.
“I tell the interpreter in state institutions, lawyer offices or in a notary public, but does the translator translate what I exactly say? If someone knows sign language in such places, then I will have more accurate information because that person is a professional in their field.
“Therefore, everyone should learn this sign language,” Kihtir concluded.
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide. More than 80% of them live in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.
Sign languages are fully fledged natural languages, structurally distinct from the spoken languages, according to UN.
The UN General Assembly has proclaimed Sept. 23 as the International Day of Sign Languages in order to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf.
The first International Day of Sign languages was celebrated in 2018 under the theme “With Sign Language, Everyone is Included!”.