New Technology to Level the Racetrack for Runners with Hearing Impairments

A pistol blast has been the standard signal for the start of a race probably since the invention of gunpowder, and for an equally long time, athletes with hearing impairments have been at a substantial disadvantage. It’s tough to come charging out of the gate when you can’t hear the signal to run. In open races where athletes with hearing impairments race against those without them, such runners have relied on the sight of the pistol’s explosion or a touch on the back from a coach, both of which can lengthen reaction times and cost valuable fractions of a second.

To resolve this dilemma, the Spanish technology company Technalia has worked with partners both within and outside of the disability sports community to develop a more optimal signaling system. Science Daily reports:

The principal innovation of the system is its capacity to have the disabled athlete perceives the sound of the starting signal at the same time as the rest of the athletes do through hearing. It involves a device with lights placed at the starting line; in front of the athlete and which the athlete’s own trainer triggers using wireless technology. In this way, when the start judge announces the start with “on your marks,” the coach activates a red light; and when she or he says “get ready,” the light goes yellow; and finally, the system automatically perceives the sound of the start signal and the light turns green.

The system was first used on June 11 at a meet at Basauri in the Basque province of Bizkaia. We’ll keep tabs on the system for you and let you know if and when it’ll be available at a track near you.

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