5 Min

Deaf Football Fans "Feel" Innovative Inclusion

Special jerseys that lit up and vibrated were created for deaf football fans. Read our latest article to find out all about it!

Molly Glass
Molly Glass
Deaf Football Fans "Feel" Innovative Inclusion

There was a buzz generated at St. James Park in New Castle, England recently. Literally. Deaf football fans were able to wear specially created jerseys that lit up and vibrated to match the noise of the crowd. 

It was a historic milestone for the Deaf community in the United Kingdom – thanks to sponsors from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and Sela. Fans were assured they would have this experience for the rest of the season.

How does it work?

There are microphones placed around the stadium. The jerseys are equipped with sensors that detect noise levels. The software encodes the noise into data and then sends a signal to the receivers in the shirts. The shirts would then light up and vibrate in synchronization with the crowd, allowing the Deaf fans to feel the excitement in real time. 

Caption your calls for free

Download Nagish
Nagish app - Caption Your Phone Calls

The Reception

The initial use of these jerseys was at the April 13th game against Tottenham. The game ended in a resounding 4-0 win, and generated lots of excitement for all, especially the d/Deaf fans. Overall, the feedback on the implementation of the haptic shirts was met with many positive reviews. 

A video of deaf children wearing the jerseys at the game went viral, and their reactions of pure joy were amazing to see. The Newcastle team also incorporated British Sign Language (BSL) at the game – going above and beyond for inclusion. The deaf child explained how it even vibrated to match the location of the scoring – on the left or right side of his jersey to match the field.

Future Implications

A blind man with a red and white cane walks down steps.
A blind man with a red and white cane walks down steps.

My first thought was the adaptability of this concept for another minority group: DeafBlind fans. Many DeafBlind individuals use protactile sign language, and some also use haptics. Haptics is pressure placed on the back or arms by another person's hands to convey information about the environment such as mood, location of people, furniture, etc. 

Imagine if the back of the shirt could vibrate and mimic the location of players’ movement on the field in real time with haptics. It seems very feasible with today’s state of technology. All around, it is an innovative idea to enhance the experience of deaf and hard of hearing football fans. We hope that other sports take notice and also lead the way for historic inclusion of all fans with disabilities. 

Molly Glass
Molly Glass

Molly, a Deaf mom of two CODAs, lives with her hearing partner of almost 14 years in the scenic Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. Profoundly Deaf since 18 months old, she enjoys writing about the lived Deaf experiences and advocacy. In her free time she reads, and is very slowly working on authoring her first book.

Share on:
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.