Our latest project involves the development of innovative solutions to support Deaf drivers into racing.
Project SEB – ‘Strive, Empower, Belong’ was named after the son of Project Manager Clare Pagano who worked with the team earlier this year, to kick off this groundbreaking initiative. Clare’s son lives with CHARGE Syndrome and is deaf as a result of the condition.
We’re now working with UK’s only two Deaf driver Caleb McDuff and Sarah Thompson to understand the limitations in place within the motorsport industry for the Deaf racing community and to create bespoke solutions.
Being a Deaf racing driver comes with challenges that are completely unique.
- Many people who are Deaf wear cochlear implants which turn sounds into electrical signals and send them to the cochlear in the inner ear. From there, the signals travel to the brain and are heard as sound.
Standard racing helmets don’t have the room or design for cochlear implants to be worn. As a result, Caleb chooses to race in silence without his implants.
- Communication between a race crew and a racing driver is essential in every race. A solution is needed which can be integrated into the car without distracting the driver and without requiring extensive hand movements.
- A Deaf driver receives less than half the sensory experience a hearing driver receives when racing, we’re looking at what systems could work to replicate these experiences currently being lost.
We’re now working with partners including motorsport communications experts MRTC, BAE Systems and Real Equipe to develop solutions. These include exploring a ‘heads up display’ situated on the helmet visor and a driver response tool on the steering wheel that flips through a list of pre-set messages.
Recently, the team at Neill’s Materials created a custom-made helmet for Jacob which allows his to race in comfort by being specially designed to fit around his cochlea implants. A video detailing this process can be seen here:
Team Founder Dave Player explains: “Currently, Deaf racing drivers face a massive disadvantage in motor racing due to the challenges they face when communicating with the pit crew and with regards to the sensory experiences of the environment in and around the car. Deaf people may also choose to wear cochlear implants which enable sound to be heard to some degree, but these cannot fit under standard race helmets. Caleb for example, races in silence because of this.
“Although there are a number of technical solutions to parts of the overall challenge, nothing is truly enabling equal access to motorsport for Deaf people. There is a compromise with every current option.
“We’re now reaching out to key partners such as UK Deaf Sport to create a way forward with the project, and will be looking to secure the support of sponsors that wish to help us create something truly revolutionary for racing.”
Anyone looking to learn more about the project should contact email@example.com