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Sidebar: Are we ready for players with phsycial handicaps?

I didn't want to sidetrack the 2014 rules thread with this, but I had a thought last night after an experience at pick-up.

We had a first timer come to play who was hearing impaired. I can do a little ASL, so we communicated well enough, and he lip-read what I couldn't say with my hands. I found myself a bit embarrassed however when explaining things like the joust.

"We count down, 3,2,1, polo! or ask both sides if they are ready and signal with a whistle."

This is a moment I didn't like. It didn't feel good.

What I think should be developed is some basic signals for the game.

1) Add to the ruleset that the whistle blow must additionally have an arm signal (like an arm drop).
2) While it would be tedious to create specific signals for all rule infractions, it may be reasonable to make signals for the degree of infraction.
2a) We already use the raised arm for delayed penalty, and think this could be worked in seamlessly.

In the end, if we had simple gestures for

1) Start of play
2) Delayed penalty
3) Turnover
4) Penalty box / power play
5) Ejection
6) Goal / No goal
7) End of play

I'm only addressing one type of physical handicap here, and only offering one approach. I'm interested in the community's thoughts, or if any clubs have players that they make any special accommodations for.

We have a player who is hearing impaired. We actually haven't had anything come up as far as jousting or calling penalties (as we don't officiate our pick-up games) but I can tell you from experience that trying to get his attention during game play is difficult. For tournament play you would need more than just one ref as you need to make eye contact, or smack the ground with your mallet so he turns around to let him know something is up. As far as during game play... he and I have hand and percussive signals to signify I'm rolling into net behind him, or to let him know where I am for a pass. And we can heckle each other in sign...

shotgun your bike!

I like the ideas in this thread

Are we ready? No. Does it matter? Nope, the players are already on the court.
I agree that we should adjust and educate refs accordingly, I definitely was not prepared to deal with a hearing aid falling on the court mid-play in my early days of tourney reffing.
And yay for pidgen ASL! It's made me 30% better at my job!


Swimming has lights that go along with sound.
Track uses flag along with sound.
Hockey uses hand signals
Soccer has cards

So we've got lights, hand signals, cards, and flag to combine with whistle. Lights are less feasible due to flash photography so im not in favor there. Hand signals would work well after we get the attention of players both hearing impared and not. Cards would also work but we'd have to get a bunch for each type of decision. Maybe a mix of both? I'd prefer a hand signal along with a flag because waving flags are fun.

I like these http://i.imgur.com/gXPPPlg.jpg gestures and prefer the smaller hand gestures compared to field hockey's wild windmill arms. But we can make it silly as we want, its all brand new here. Maybe handstand http://i.imgur.com/bwVTYNO.png for stoppage of play and cowabunga http://i.imgur.com/R0h7srv.jpg for turnover. Lets get creative!

So there is a deaf hockey league but I cant find anything good on what they do different.

Winston Salem NC Bike Polo

Yeah accessibility measures targetting a minority almost always have benefits for everyone else, too. I'll upload some ref hand signal guides i collected last year, mostly from hockey.

I was flooded with signals while googling. I would appreciate some solid guides from someone who knows whats up.

Winston Salem NC Bike Polo

Here are three decent ones from hockey orgs


The hand signals for...

High Sticking
Goal Scored

...are particularly good, IMO.

Lots of other good ones that are, perhaps, more specific than I think we need. I'd say if we had a general one for illegal contact it would suffice. Maybe the misconduct signal?

Combination of choice: Smash + Bang

Side note to the sidebar: spoke with our hearing impaired club member and he said he never knows when the joust is being called and so he just rolls into goal. does it matter? i'd say so. i feel like a horrible person for my ignorance. but he was really happy that i brought it up and stoked to know that people are discussing it in the forum.

shotgun your bike!

I think requiring the addition of an arm drop with the whistle would solve this particular problem. I'm glad you talked to your club mate!

Combination of choice: Smash + Bang

Yep, seems like an arm drop would be trivially easy to add.

Legalize Hand Throws - 2014

As a hearing disabled person, my input on the subject is that hand signals and nonverbal communication can go a long way. Goal judges signalling a goal is great. A hand dropping on the joust signal would also be appropriate (it's like a boxing match). Judges could also give hand signals of what the score is, even if the score is displayed by flip numbers on the side of the court. This is just for clarity purposes. I doubt we'll have referees making hand signals for penalties like football.

I would like to add (without trying to create a debate) that a hearing disability is a social handicap. I am still very physically capable. Bike polo has a huge learning curve that leans towards physicality but also has coordination and strategy that takes experience to learn.

Yeah the hand drop on the joust seems like an easy win for everyone.

sonofagun wrote:

I doubt we'll have referees making hand signals for penalties like football.

I disagree on this part. I always want to know what the call is on the court, whether it's against my team, against the other team, or if i'm a spectator. Hand signals would really help, and i think they would help provide a record of reffing so that we could improve it.

And i think they've already happened, if unofficially. Check out Robbie asking Lewis what the call was for his hook on Arlyn at 8:25. Granted, "hooking" is only defined in the NAH ruleset as done with a mallet (perhaps should be expanded to include hooking the body with the body, which would include chicken wings). But it's a good call, and Lewis' explanation works because it's visual, even with all the noise on the court.

The other place where i would find hand signals useful would be t-bones/bike-on-bike/toppling and everything else that happens during a clusterfuck. These are the most difficult situations for a ref and i think the visual would be a kind of encoding of the rule, forcing the ref to not just say "yeah that was fucked up and i'm giving you a penalty".

Thanks for the feedback. I know lots of the conversation has been around impaired hearing, but the topic I wanted to enter is larger and would incorporate other challenges (partial amputees etc). The topic certainly came up due to my own social difficulty in communication with a hearing impaired cyclist, so I mean no offense in referring to the larger category of disabilities as all being physical.

You mentioned the scoring motions. The signal I had already been using when reffing on DC League night indicates score. I'd direct my non-whistle arm to the goal, and indicate with fingers how many goals had been scored.

Combination of choice: Smash + Bang