Possible changes to starting procedures for deaf

A BREAKTHROUGH legal challenge involving a deaf Queensland junior sprinter could eventually lead to radical changes to starting procedures at Olympic Games level.


Deaf track and field athletes currently remain at a significant disadvantage because athletics, unlike swimming, has refused to allow the use of strobe light mechanisms to signify a start.

Deaf runners have had to either anticipate the start or simply react as soon as their able-bodied rivals have, immediately placing them at a disadvantage.

But that might now change because of Deaf Sports Australia’s successful discrimination claim to Human Rights Commission involving Sekou Kanneh, an 11-year-old with undisputed sprinting ability.

DSA took up Kanneh’s cause after the youngster was denied the use of visual starting prompts at the national junior titles, where he finished second in the 100m and 200m. School Sports Australia first denied Kanneh, claiming it would create a precedent, which “would create problems for the organization in the future”.


School Sports Australia was backed in its stance by Athletics Australia, which operates under the International Amateur Athletics Federation protocols.

The Human Rights Commission found in Kanneh’s favour.

Long-serving International Olympic Committee member Kevan Gosper hopes to track and field athletes affected by deafness will ultimately be able to use visual prompts at the highest level.

Federal Minister for Sport Mark Arbib supports DSA’s push. Mark Arbib was elected Senator for New South Wales at the 2007 Federal Election and commenced his term on 1 July 2008.

Mark was appointed Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery in June 2009.

His portfolio includes the management of the Government’s employment programs, such as Job Services Australia, the Disability Employment Service and the Indigenous Employment Program.

Mark has a Masters of Arts in Political Science and Economic History from the University of NSW.

Mark Arbib is the Duty Senator for Mackellar, Warringah and Lyne.

The drive comes as debates continue over the merits of allowing South African Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee known as the “Blade Runner”, to compete at the London Olympics.


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