Britain’s largest national student union has told attendees of its annual conference they would face “consequences” for cheering and clapping because these forms of expression exclude deaf people.
The National Union of Students (NUS), which includes most university student unions, held a two-day conference on Tuesday.
During the conference, audience members were repeatedly warned that they must stop whooping and expressing support for a speaker because it has “serious impact” on the accessibility of the conference, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Instead of clapping, the students were advised to use “jazz hands” – a gesture when people wave their hands in the air – as it’s believed to be more inclusive to people with hearing problems.
Student publication The Tab captured a video showing some students doing “jazz hands” after the election of the new student union president on Wednesday:
The union’s committee member Estelle Hart, who chaired a session on Thursday, told students: “No whooping, it does have a serious impact on some delegates ability to access conference.” She later reminded students again, saying “gentle reminder not to whoop”.
Shelly Asquith, the NUS vice president for welfare, also brought up the issue during the conference, saying “We’ve had a number of requests that people stop whooping”.
In response to the complaints, the Durham University student union proposed a motion at the conference that would see clapping and whooping banned at all future NUS events. According to the motion, “access needs of disabled students are disregarded/overlooked in terms of conference member behaviour and NUS structures”.
The motion calls for “reduced cheering or unnecessary loud noises on conference floor, including whooping and clapping” and warned of “consequences for those who ignore this requirement”.
This isn’t the first time the student union has tackled the issue of clapping. In the past, some NUS events banned clapping because it might “trigger anxiety”.