Deaf swimmer from Tooting kicked off lifeguard course
A champion swimmer and Commonwealth Games hopeful has been kicked off a lifeguard training course because he is deaf.
James Webster, 21, of Rossiter Road, Tooting, is a deaf competitor for Great Britain.
The rising star has dreams to compete in the Commonwealth Games and was hoping to fund his training by working as a lifeguard.
He enrolled on a National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) course at Tooting Leisure Centre last month, passing level one of the course within a few weeks.
But as he entered the third week of the course he was told by his tutor he could not continue, because he is deaf.
Instructors told him he would not be able to do the job as he would not be able to hear people breathing and would struggle to communicate with colleagues.
The Institute of Qualified Lifeguards said they cannot always accept candidates who have poor vision or hearing.
A publication by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also states lifeguards must have good hearing.
Mr Webster, who communicates using sign language and lip reading, is now seeking legal advice.
His brother, Ross Webster, speaking on his behalf, said: "Deaf people legally are allowed to be lifeguards. They said it was ok with him being deaf.
"It is the best job to assist him with his training. For a deaf person there are not that many jobs available."
Mr Webster said he has several deaf friends currently working as lifeguards and is at least hoping to get back the £250 he forked out for the course.
The former Oak Lodge School student represented the UK at the World Deaf Swimming Championships in Portugal, swimming freestyle.
He is a former Wandsworth police cadet and has won the Wandsworth Mayor's Access Awards several times.
A spokeswoman from the Institute of Qualified Lifeguards said: "We will always do our best to facilitate a candidate taking part in a course and give them the necessary opportunities to succeed.
"However, due to the requirements of the role of the lifeguard, and in accordance with the Institute of Qualified Lifeguards’ overriding duty to comply with the Health and Safety Executives publication ‘Managing Health and Safety in Swimming Pools’, it is not always possible to accept applicants who do not have a good level of vision or hearing, as is the case in this instance."
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