When all of the other swimmers at the Olympic Trials in Omaha this June are attempting to paddle and kick fast enough to earn a spot in London, Marcus Titus will have more than just his performance in the pool to worry about. Titus is a deaf swimmer who has been working with USA Swimming for months in an attempt to come up with a method that will allow deaf and hearing impaired swimmers to have the same opportunities as their hearing counterparts. According to the Facebook page Titus recently created, he has had little success.
Titus has made it clear that he feels as though USA Swimming is discriminating against him, and he’s calling for others to assist him in taking action. FINA, the international governing body for swimming, currently allows a strobe light to be used to signal the start of a race for deaf and hearing impaired swimmers. According to USA Swimming program operations VP James Sheehan, USA Swimming currently follows FINA protocol and will do so at the Omaha qualifiers.
The problem is the strobe light isn’t enough. It lets deaf and hearing impaired swimmers know when the race begins, but there are no hand signals or indicators used to let the swimmers know to step up or take their marks. Other swimming organizations use hand signals to accommodate such individuals, but as of now USA Swimming does not.
“Although I have worked with USA Swimming for months to standardize race procedures for Deaf swimmers, USA Swimming is not accommodating my request to incorporate hand signals at the Olympic trials,” Titus wrote on the Facebook page entitled “USA Swimming discriminates against deaf swimmer” earlier this week. “This has become an unfortunate case of discrimination at a time when I should be receiving a lot of support for this once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Sheehan wrote in a letter to Titus that the top referees and starters from the United State will be working the Olympic Trials, and he insists they are “well versed in the procedures to be used for starts for the deaf and hearing impaired.” Per FINA protocol, however, the referees will not be using hand signals.
Titus says that the execution of visual race starts currently has less than 50 percent accuracy, and he is calling for USA Swimming to incorporate a procedure that can be followed by hearing, deaf and hearing impaired individuals. He is looking for Facebook followers to help protest the current FINA protocol by writing letters, emailing those involved, and showing support through social media.
USA Swimming officials could not be reached via email on Thursday morning.
UPDATE: It appears as though the action Titus took on Facebook paid off, as USA Swimming released the following statement Tuesday afternoon informing people that they will indeed use hand signals at the Olympic Trials in Omaha.
“USA Swimming will use hand signals at the upcoming Olympic Trials in order to accommodate our deaf and hearing-impaired swimmers. We thank National Team member Marcus Titus for bringing this issue to our attention. USA Swimming embraces an inclusive culture and is pleased to be able to accommodate our athletes with hearing impairments by making this change. The ruling is in accordance with USA Swimming rules [Article 105.3]. Meeting the needs of our athletes remains a top priority for our organization, and we are pleased to take this action.”
H/T Nick Zaccardi on Twitter
Photo credit: Tyler Kaufman-US PRESSWIRE