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Diversity and inclusion

Bringing communities together: LTA Tennis Foundation funds long standing Hearing Impaired Tennis Festival


In the UK there are currently 11 million deaf people, and according to research, 1 in 5 of them say communication is the main barrier preventing them from taking part in sport.

An incredible group of people in the North East of England, who have a passion for tennis and making sure everyone can take part, decided to set up a Hearing Impaired Tennis Festival, working to remove the barriers to participation.

With funding from the LTA Tennis Foundation, we are supporting the delivery of this festival as part of the wider deaf tennis offering. They are primarily driven and delivered by a father and daughter, John & Anne (who have both been long time committee members of the Durham & Cleveland County) who are based at Yarm Tennis Club, with the support of their wider tennis community.

The festivals are more than just a day out, it has become a key moment in the year where children are able to come and play tennis, and meet other children in similar situations, which is very powerful, as it means no adjustments or explanations are needed for communication.

It's so well run, it is really fun and engaging for the children.

Charlie, a young man who has attended the festival for the past few years said: “It's dead fun, you get to play games and meet new people! I met Fraser here last year, and Alfie – it's great.”

The festivals are designed to be inclusive and offer participants an opportunity to play tennis based games and activities, and groups from across the region attend the festivals year on year.

Gemma from Sensory Support Services said: “The festivals are a good opportunity for the children who access our service to meet other children in a similar situation to them. We've often got lots of children in schools who are the only hearing impaired or deaf child in that setting. So, we try and get as many students together as possible so that they have the opportunity to make friendships, and for them to realise that they're not the only hearing impaired or deaf student. It's good to meet people who they've got something in common with. Our service covers a wide area, including Middlesbrough, Stockton and Hartlepool, so the children are spread out far and wide. The festival brings the children together, and some of them have even become pen pals from the event! They also swap gamertags to be able to play on the computer together and keep those friendships going after the events finished.”

Experiences like this are vital for children, not only for the physical benefits but their wider social development, Gemma, went on to say: “A lot of our young people the struggle with wearing hearing aids because they don't want to look different, and this is a good opportunity for them to realise that there are lots of other people in the same position as them.”


Steve, from Sunny Side Academy, another group who have attended for years made the point that “The biggest impact of these festivals is a social one, meeting other people, and being aware that there are other deaf people is invaluable. They learn other skills in addition to tennis - communication, and interaction skills that they take back to school and into into their general life. I can't overstate how important this is just to get out and socialise, to compete, to play, to communicate with children of their own age of similar disability. It is really, really important”

Anne is passionate about carrying on the festivals, saying: “The festivals are so important, and bring so much to so many. It has been amazing to see how my dad started them, and I am proud to be carrying on his legacy. We are hoping to develop them further and hold 4 a year going forward”.

Sophie Hall, LTA Disability Competitions Manager who leads on the festivals said: “The Deaf Awareness Festivals funded by the LTA Tennis Foundation have already had a significant impact on participation of young people who are Deaf or Hard of hearing; by providing tennis is a social and inclusive environment. The festivals give children and young people the opportunity to meet other people with similar impairments and create friendships for years to come. In the past 12 months, these festivals have already engaged over 150 children which is a fantastic achievement”.

Deaf tennis

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