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This sign language interpreter teaches accessible CrossFit classes for the deaf community

CrossFit classes for the deaf community
Jamie Shawn Hardman is a sign language interpreter and Crossfitter.

She’s meshed her two passions by hosting and teaching Crossfit classes for the deaf community that are in American Sign Language (ASL).

Hardman’s own personal Crossfit journey began in 2014 after attending grad school at Gallaudet.

“I had gained a lot of weight and loved lifting,” says Hardman.

She enjoyed the community and how quickly her body was changing. She has competed in local Crossfit competitions and took her CF-L1 in 2017. Shortly after, she started coaching her own Crossfit classes and offers her Healthy Babes programming. The program includes the first CrossFit in ASL program for deaf/hard of hearing/ASL users in Utah.

Teaching CrossFit classes in ASL

Hardman is hearing and took ASL in high school. Her teacher was an interpreter who ultimately encouraged her to get her Associates Degree through an interpreting program. Hardman has been an interpreter for over 13 years and currently teaches interpreting full time at Utah Valley University. She says that having a strong background in Deaf Studies inspired her to offer Crossfit to the signing community in their language citing it as “a fun and rewarding sport.”

Teacher of CrossFit classes for the deaf community

Her classes are the only ones conducted in ASL, that she knows of, outside of a gym in Virginia that offers classes exclusively in ASL. When asked about what makes her ASL Crossfit classes different from regular classes, Hardman explains how there can be a lot of movement during the CrossFit instructions making it difficult for someone with hearing loss to understand.

“Lots of deaf and hard of hearing struggle because instructors move around a lot while teaching,” Hardman says. “Clients have the opportunity to ask questions about movements, explain restrictions or needs for modifications, and also are able to learn why we do what we do with each movement and the styles of the workouts to understand the benefits their body is receiving. With most sports, they don’t have that access.”

Also, this ties in closely with what she wishes hearing Crossfitters knew about Deaf/Hard of Hearing crossfitters.

“I wish people knew how capable they are! It’s important to ask the Deaf/HOH athlete how they prefer to be communicated with,” Hardman explains, “They don’t always want to lip read, or may not be able to. That’s a common misconception.”

“I wish people knew how capable they are! It’s important to ask the Deaf/HOH athlete how they prefer to be communicated with.”

Making accessible CrossFit classes for the deaf community

Hardman makes an effort to ensure her classes are accessible for the deaf community. She mentions tips for other gyms to use to make their classes more accessible too.

1) Captioning videos

Instruction videos or other gym videos with captions can make a big difference for a deaf athlete or Crossfitter.

2) Learning some signs or gestures

Communicating with the deaf student in your class through signs or gestures can go a long way and make an athlete feel safe. A willingness to write down workouts or spend some 1:1 time with the patron to really explain what they are being taught can contribute to the safety of the athlete and the gym.

That said, for those are who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Jamie wholeheartedly believes you can participate in Crossfit. You can find a trainer who uses ASL or reach out to her directly. 

“I’d be happy to help!” Hardman enthusiastically exclaimed. “It looks intense and scary if you want The Games. It can be, but is also SO MUCH FUN!”

Hardman wants people to gain a strong foundation in health and wellness so they can live a mobile and active lifestyle for many years to come!

Read more: Community Spotlight: This Signing Yogi is making yoga accessible

You can learn more about Jamie and her classes through her Facebook or Instagram!

Author Details
Ashley is a 29-year-old who loves to travel and try new things. She has bi-lateral, severe hearing loss, and wears a Phonak Naída V-SP hearing aid in one ear and has an Esteem implant in the other. She plays soccer for the USA Women’s National Deaf Team. She’s currently traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and perspective while also learning about the deaf and hard of hearing communities in various countries. Her travels can be followed on instagram @ashley5chanel or on her blog deaftattooedandemployed.com.