In a bizarre case coming out of the United Kingdom, delegates at the National Union of Students conference have stated that there should be consequences for clapping, cheering and whooping, as these actions exclude deaf participants. As an alternative, they are trying to promote the use of “jazz hands.”
Despite the fact that the visually impaired or people suffering from arm-related disabilities might have a tough time taking part, attendees at the conference were asked to show their support by waving their hands in the air, or “jazz hands” as it is known, to show support and encouragement as it has been deemed a more inclusive form of expression. The chair of Thursday night’s session at the conference, Estelle Hart, firmly told students, “No whooping, it does have a serious impact on some delegates ability to access the conference.”
Taking things a step further in, the Durham University student union proposed a motion that would outlaw clapping and cheering at all future NUS events completely, claiming that “access needs of disabled students are disregarded/overlooked in terms of conference member behaviour and NUS structures,” adding that disabled students’ safety and wellbeing were being compromized. Furthermore, past NUS events have banned clapping under the belief that it can “trigger clap-based anxiety.”
The motion put forth by Durham University calls for “reduced cheering or unnecessary loud noises on conference floor, including whooping and clapping,” warning that there would be “consequences for those who ignore this requirement.” The move has garnered its critics, however, with one commenting on Reddit, “My deaf friends clap at events and have never shown an offence to it… Not sure where these people think they have a right to speak for them.”
“Jazz hands” has been decided on as the preferred alternative to clapping according to an NUS spokesperson, claiming “the hand gesture used [during the conference] is the sign used in the British Sign Language vocabulary for applause. It means more people can participate in our conference.” The spokesperson also added that they “don’t actively stop our members from clapping, they choose to be respectful and enable other people to get involved.”
This isn’t the first time an educational institution has tried to ban clapping. An elementary school in Sydney, Australia, raised eyebrows last year when it banned clapping at school assemblies in favor of “silent applause” in respect of students who were sensitive to noise. Parents were notified in a school newsletter that students would be encouraged to “punch the air, pull excited faces and wriggle about on the spot” when prompted by a teacher.