Signing the Senior: Genius commentary service brings TT to life for deaf fans

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The Manx Deaf Society have been making the Isle of Man TT road races more accessible with live signed commentary from The Grandstand, in Douglas.

Known as the ‘Deaf TT’, the service was provided on June 9-10 of this year’s road racing festival, allowing deaf residents and visitors the chance to experience more from the second Superstock, Supertwin, and blue riband Senior TT races.

“The amount of work that went into it was phenomenal,” interpreter Carol Kyle told MCN. “When we first talked about it, I almost thought it was impossible.

Carol Kyle signs the Isle of Man TT commentary

“There are no signs for any of the corners, there are no signs for any of the riders,” she explained. “Everybody had to learn new signs, because there’s no point looking at what the signs could be if people don’t understand them.”

Carol lives in Blackpool and travels to the island to provide the commentary, which is organised and paid for by the Manx Deaf Society. Starting back in 2016, the service has been offered every year that a TT has run since.

“It’s always a joy and the TT is a unique experience,” she continued. “I wasn’t particularly into bikes before I did the TT. It was going to be a challenging job from a linguistic point of view, but I actually fell in love with the TT, the atmosphere, and the whole island.”

Manx Deaf Society boss Lucy Buxton

In order to create the signs, a number of team members toured the TT course – taking note of the names and physical features of each location to come up with a structure that everyone could learn and understand so that information could be imparted rapidly enough for everyone to keep up with the action.

“Sign language is a very visual medium,” charity CEO, Lucy Buxton explained. “For example, for May Hill [a corner on the track] you don’t just do the signs for MH.

“If you know May Hill, there’s a gothic, Scooby Doo-looking house there, so we based it on that. The road name might be May Hill, but it looks like vampires live in that house, so it became known as ‘house of the vampires’.

Sign language interpreter, Carol, provides Isle of Man TT commentary

“In the race, you do the lip pattern for May Hill, but the sign for ‘house of the vampires’, so it’s an extra thing to add in as well.

“The amount of knowledge and skills that Carol needs to have to be able to do this is absolutely phenomenal. And she does the full commentary for an entire six-lap race with no break, but will also provide updated information in between if – for example – the race is red flagged.”

TT fan David Allen

For the charity users, the service is a huge boost – allowing them to experience the thrill of the TT in the same way that a hearing person can.

“I can see the bikes going past and I know who they are, and what position they’re in,” life-long TT fan David Allen told MCN. “I feel on a par with everybody listening because all I would get before was a bike flying past every so often, so I can’t thank Carol enough for interpreting the race for me.”

For more on the charity, and to support their work visit the Manx Deaf Society website.