Digme Fitness has proven to be a big hit with the deaf community, thanks to its inclusive nature and clear communication from the instructors.
In this Q&A, we talk to Digme ambassador Gü Dopran, who has set up Signlync, an app which connects the deaf and hard of hearing community to British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, communication support workers and note takers. The app will help bring the community together by alleviating feelings of exclusion and isolation.
Q: Tell us about the impact fitness has had on your life…
A: I absolutely love all aspects of fitness and have always been very active. As a young child I was always on my bike. My first passion was ice-skating but after a near-fatal accident in a training session, I ended up in hospital with concussion and a serious dent to my confidence. I did eventually get back on the ice, but I was never the same. I’ve been deaf since I was a year old, and it has never held me back.
Q: Describe your role in the deaf community…
A: Since moving to Richmond and starting my business, Signlync, I’ve tried to bring the hearing and deaf communities together through deaf awareness training and workshops. I hope to a make a positive impact on the lives of the deaf community, and I’m currently working on an app which will help to connect deaf people with their communication support on both a social and professional level.
Q: What do you love about indoor cycling?
A: I’d previously tried indoor cycling in a local gym, but it didn’t appeal to me at the time. I didn’t feel involved, as being deaf I found it hard to follow the trainers’ instructions, and the bikes were pretty basic.
It wasn’t until I discovered Digme Fitness that all that changed. The bikes are known for being the Porsches of indoor cycling. When you arrive your cycling shoes are waiting for you by the bike you’ve pre-booked. From start to finish, the Digme experience is pretty awesome, with Cowshed products and really lovely, private showers.
Q: How has Digme embraced you and your friends, who are also deaf?
A: Right from the start, everyone at Digme has encouraged and supported me to be part of their new venture in Richmond. I was keen to improve on my all-round fitness, and I jumped at the opportunity to try out a cycling class through a promotional offer I’d seen on Instagram. Being able to bring a buddy along too is really appealing, especially to the deaf community, as we don't always feel welcome in predominantly hearing environments.
Several of my deaf friends have now experienced an endorphin-fuelled Digme session and have been very impressed with the instructors’ willingness to include us all. As a team, they are embracing BSL, going so far as to learn some basic sign instructions from Levent, Signlync's BSL Executive. Levent thoroughly enjoyed his first experience at Digme and, like me, is a now a regular. The classes are very visual and deaf-friendly, which was noted by another friend of mine who’s a deaf fitness blogger. She particularly enjoyed the Tabata section.
Q: How is indoor cycling good for someone who’s deaf?
A: The inclusivity at Digme is a big pull for me, and I think the deaf community would enjoy the bonding experience which comes with indoor cycling. Where else could you be sitting next to a world-class triathlete, which I have done? It's a great way to challenge yourself, too, and I’ve been inspired to enter a sprint triathlon.
Q: Do you have any fitness role models?
A: I’ve been following the career of the French cyclist Pauline Ferrand-Prévot. She is phenomenal. At just 23, during the 2015 season, she became the first person to simultaneously hold the world road title, world cyclo-cross title and world mountain bike title. That achievement will take some beating.
I might not be in Pauline's league, but I do feel extremely proud to be given the opportunity to be an ambassador for Digme Fitness, and I hope to be a positive fitness role model for the deaf community. I’m looking forward to hosting a class where we can come together as one to enjoy the benefits of indoor cycling.