How Does Dragon Boating Feel When You're Blind Or Deaf?

Nicholas Foo, Society Staples

Find out at Paddle For Good, a charity fundraiser event that simulates what rowing feels like when you have a disability. 

Paddle For Good by Society Staples will be at the 2016 DBS Marina Regatta

Have you ever been dragon boating? What about doing it on land, without use of your sight or hearing? At this year’s DBS Marina Regatta, you can put yourself in the shoes of adaptive paddlers - deaf and visually impaired athletes who compete in a sport that relies heavily on auditory and visual cues.  

At this year’s Paddle for Good, DBS Marina Regatta and Society Staples lets you experience dragon boating on land, with an added twist. Using an ergometer, you can go through one of two dragon boat race simulations - like an immersive amusement park ride, but with an important lesson on inclusivity and compassion. Best of all, for every simulation you try, DBS will donate $50 to organisations that support the physically disabled.  

In 2015's event, the Deaf Dragons team even broke the world record for the longest distance paddled on an ergometer in 24 hours. 

Paddle For Good by Society Staples at the DBS Marina Regatta - Asia For Good

Here's a taste of the simulations...

How it Feels for a Visually Impaired Adaptive Paddler

There’s a blaring horn. You pull with all your strength. You hear the splash of water; you hear the rhythmic breathing of the person next to you. You feel the burn in your lungs and the ache in your shoulders. Your own breath becomes laboured and you tighten your grip on the lacquered wood in your hands. The sound of the drum resonates on your clothes and in your chest. 1. 2. Pull. You hear a roar. After a few long exhalations, your teammate touches your shoulder and tells you “We’re done.” You breathe out and follow the slowing drum, quietly paddling back to shore as the electric buzz of adrenaline settles beneath your skin. You grab your teammate's elbow as they guide you onto the pontoon. Someone hands you your paddle and you grab their shoulder. You walk back to your rest area as a team.

How it Feels for A Deaf Adaptive Paddler

The light breaks on the surface of the water. You feel the heat of the sun on the back of your neck as you stretch forward. There’s a flash of movement. You heave backwards and feel the tension give way. The air is cool as it rushes in and out of your chest. The water sprays and coats your skin. You follow the movement all around you and the silent rhythm in your limbs. In, out. In, out. Reaching further, pulling harder. The solid weight in your hands disappears and is replaced by the sensation of resistance and release.  You see the open space before you as your muscles burn and the pace increases. Suddenly, a waving arm. All activity stops. For a few seconds no one moves. But you see the rise and fall of many shoulders as your team takes deep breaths. One more signal. You paddle back to the pontoon slowly as the sudden stillness of your surroundings brightens every colour. You disembark and your coach congratulates the team on a job well done in a flurry of hand gestures and signs. You take a breath and get ready for the next race.

About Society Staples

Through team building activities that involve blindfolds, sign language and dragonboating, Society Staples is a social enterprise that aims to raise awareness, educate, correct and challenge public misconceptions of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) and to encourage healthy interaction and understanding between the community and PwDs. Participants not only learn to communicate better, grow in empathy and become a better team. They step into the shoes of a different body and walk into a new mindset. An inclusive society without barriers is possible, and it starts with every and anybody who makes the choice to create one.


Interested in socially conscious living in Asia? Check out Asia For Good's social enterprise directory.


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