When and why was the USADSF established?

The American Athletic Union of the Deaf was established in 1945 with the idea of providing a central governing body for all deaf sport organizations and competitions at the time. The name was officially changed to the USADSF in 1997. The primary responsibilities of the USADSF are to regulate uniform rules of competition for affiliated national sport organizations, facilitate the participation of US teams in international competition, and to promote human rights and equity through sports.

What is a National Sport Organization?

A National Sport Organization (NSO) is recognized by USADSF as the governing body of a specific sport in the United States and is granted the authority to select and recommend athletes and coaches to USADSF for international competitions. In order to become a NSO, the organization has to meet a list of requirements set forth in the Affiliation Criteria.

What is the purpose of deaf sports organizations?

Deaf sport organizations provide deaf and hard of hearing athletes with opportunities to compete at recreational, amateur or master levels among their own peers.

In sports, hearing loss creates disadvantages that are not as obvious as others, which means accommodations are easily overlooked or forgotten. Deaf athletes benefit from adaptations that are unique to their needs, such as the use of a light flashing system instead of starting guns or buzzers, and having officials employ hand signals and flags instead of whistles. Full access to communication is also a critical factor in the success of any athlete. In deaf sports, all needs are met and all participants have full access to communication.

Deaf sport clubs also function as a social outlet for both members of the Deaf community and people with assorted forms of hearing loss who may have been unaware of the Deaf community. The shared interest in sports brings together all kinds of D/deaf, hard of hearing, hearing impaired people and creates new opportunities for friendship and networking within the greater deaf and hard of hearing community.

What is the organizational structure of the USADSF?

The USADSF is composed of an elected nine-member Executive Board, affiliated national sport organizations, standing, and ad hoc committees. The NSO Council appoints two NSO Representatives to serve as liaisons on the USADSF Executive Board.

Where is the USADSF's national office?

USADSF does not currently have a main office to meet in. USADSF's mailing address is:

USA Deaf Sports Federation
PO Box 22011
Santa Fe, NM 87502

How is USADSF funded?

USADSF is funded mainly by membership fees, donations and sponsorships.

How do I join USADSF as an athlete, coach or volunteer?

To join USADSF, please either contact us or get involved. USADSF welcomes everyone, both deaf and hearing.


What is USADSF's relationship with US Olympic Committee and US Paralympic Committee?

The USADSF is a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) as a Community-Based Multisport Organization and is independent of the US Paralympic Committee.

What is USADSF's relationship with each National Governing Body?

Each NSO, per its affiliation criteria, is affiliated to its sport's National Governing Body (NGB) and works with the NGB to promote its sport for the deaf and hard of hearing. In some cases, the USADSF has a direct relationship with the NGB.


What is the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf?

The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) is the international governing body of sports for deaf and hard of hearing athletes. It exists to coordinate and supervise the Summer and Winter Deaflympics, and World Deaf Championships. The ICSD is affiliated with 108 national deaf sports federations worldwide.

The ICSD is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be of equal standing with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

What is the Deaflympics?

The first International Silent Games were held in 1924, and was the first games ever held for any group of people with disabilities. The most recent name, the Deaflympics, was adopted in 2001. The Deaflympics is where the best deaf athletes from around the world adhere to the ideals of the Olympics while competing for the gold. The Summer and Winter Games are each held quadrennially, in odd numbered years.

Furthermore, the Deaflympics are distinguished from all other IOC sanctioned games by the fact that they are organized and run exclusively by members of the community they serve. Only deaf people are eligible to serve on the ICSD board and executive bodies.

Why not just be a part of the Paralympic movement?

As a matter of fact, the Deaflympics was once affiliated with the International Paralympics Committee (IPC), but the 1995 ICSD Congress voted unanimously to disaffiliate from the IPC. The international deaf sports community felt it was in its best interests to retain autonomous control and management of the Deaflympics. To this day, only deaf people are eligible to serve on the ICSD board and executive bodies.

Athletes with hearing loss face disadvantages that are not as obvious as others, which calls for visucentric adaptations. That may include the use of a light flashing system instead of starting guns or buzzers, and having officials employ hand signals and flags instead of whistles. These adaptations are critical to the success of any athlete with significant hearing loss, but due to communication issues and translator expenses, deaf athletes are often marginalized and these adaptations overlooked or ignored. At the Paralympics, deaf athletes are prone to experiencing difficulties with communication and social isolation.

Whereas in the Deaflympics, all needs are met and all participants have full access to communication. Furthermore, athletes experience solidarity and pride in competing with their peers in the pursuit of excellence.

And lastly, the international Deaf community is proud of its history. The first International Silent Games were held in 1924, the first Games to be hosted for any group of people with disabilities, making it the second oldest Games in the Olympic Movement spirit. The Paralympics, albeit under a different name, did not start until 1952.

What is the Pan American Deaf Sports Organization?

The Pan American Deaf Sports Organization (PANAMDES) is one of the four regional confederations under the ICSD. The USADSF is a member of PANAMDES, which also includes other sports federations from nations spanning the North, Central and South Americas.

The qualification regulations for the Deaflympics where the number of teams is capped may require the USADSF to compete in a PANAMDES-sanctioned qualifying event prior to the Deaflympics.

Eligibility for Athletes

Is there a hearing-based eligibility criterion?

Yes. To be eligible for participation in sanctioned competitions for the deaf and hard of hearing, an athlete must have a hearing loss of 55 decibels (dB) or greater in the better ear (three frequency pure tone average at 500, 1000, and 2000 Hertz [Hz]).

Can I wear my hearing aids or cochlear implant during competition?

Athletes cannot wear hearing aids or cochlear implants during sanctioned competitions.

Since I am deaf or hard of hearing, am I still eligible even though I do not communicate in sign language?


What is an Athlete Selection Criteria?

The Athlete Selection Criteria is developed to guide the selection of athletes for specific competitions, such as the Deaflympics and World Championships. The intent of the criteria is to inform a candidate of expectations and provide an avenue to exercise his/her rights to due process if he or she believes the selection process is biased.

Why do we have selection criteria for athletes, coaches and other positions?

The intent of the selection criteria is to ensure an open, fair and unbiased process.

Who develops and approves the selection criteria?

Each NSO develops and submits the criteria to the USADSF Executive Board for review and approval. Under unique circumstances where a sport is not represented by a NSO, the USADSF develops the criteria.

Who organizes and coordinates the US Teams to represent the USA at the Summer and Winter Deaflympics, World Championships, and Regional Confederation events?

The Games Preparation Committee, a standing committee of USADSF, coordinates with the Executive Board and each National Sport Organization to organize and prepare USA Teams for the Deaflympics, PANAMDES Games, and World Championships. Athletes and coaches are selected based on parameters and requirements outlined in each sport's Athlete and Coach Selection Criteria.