Reaction Light Systems for Deaf Swimmers

Reaction Light Systems for Deaf Swimmers

Rising senior at Gallaudet University Faye Frez-Albrecht and her head coach Larry Curran have been a driving force behind the movement to introduce a new starting sequence for swimming competitions – one based on light rather than sound.

This change has the potential to revolutionize the sport and make swimming much more deaf-friendly than before. If their plan goes through, it will also affect betting on swimming, since deaf swimmers would now have equal chances to win competitions. One thing that won’t change, however, is that you will still be able to boost your betting chances with this great sports betting bonus.  

Faye Frez-Albrecht was born deaf and started losing her vision when she was 10, because of a genetic disorder called Usher syndrome.

While she was growing up, she played a variety of sports and finally had the opportunity to join a swim team when she enrolled at Gallaudet.

“Swimming is the easiest sport to me,” Frez-Albrecht said for USA TODAY Sports. “It doesn’t require a whole lot of vision. I have some balance issues outside of the water, but in the water, I don’t feel that. When I’m on land, I fall easily. Other sports are pretty difficult for me. I’ve always had great teammates, of course, but in swimming it’s really just a place where I feel like I have skill and a pretty equal playing field.”

Very quickly, Frez-Albrecht demonstrated her talent and developed into a versatile swimmer.

A disappointment came when she was disqualified at the 2016 North Eastern Athletic Conference championships, because the event started before she could get to her block.

Since then, she and her coach have been leading and initiative to introduce the LED tube lights as a starting signal, in addition to the regular oral commands.

“The basic problem that the deaf athletes have had to face forever — it’s that the way the sport has been set up, they make special rules to allow the deaf athletes to participate, but they don’t go anywhere near trying to make it fair,” said Curran couple of months ago for USA Today.

Deaf swimmers are given hand signals or flashing strobe lights from the side of the pool, but both require them to turn their heads to the side to see the signal, thus losing at least half a second.

Light-based starting system is the invention on Nick Santino, who started working with Gallaudet in April 2016, after meeting Curran.

Last June, the NCAA approved the use of the lighting system in competitive races starting with the 2017-18 academic year. It is a big step forward, but Curran and Frez-Albrecht don’t want to stop here, especially since the new system benefits everyone, not just those with disability.

“What we’re doing here with Faye is a grassroots effort that is going to end up eventually changing the way swimming races are started from kindergarten to the Olympics,” Curran believes. “It’s going to take a little while to do that, but it will have international effects.”