Oxford student union bans clapping in favor of jazz hands to be more ‘inclusive’ to those with anxiety

College graduates cheering in caps and gowns
The University of Oxford passed a motion banning clapping to prevent anxiety among students. (Photo: Getty)

Students are urging the University of Oxford in England to ban clapping out of fears it could trigger anxiety.

Representatives from the Student Union (SU) passed a motion last week to replace clapping with “jazz hands” in hopes that this will make events “more inclusive” and “accessible” for those with the mental health condition.

This comes after the University of Manchester made international headlines for passing a similar motion in September 2018. Never one to shy away from controversy, TV host Piers Morgan accused Britain of “losing its mind.”

Tom tower at Oxford university
Representatives from the Oxford student union passed a motion to introduce “jazz hands.” (Photo: Getty)

“The policy was proposed in order to encourage the use of British Sign Language clapping [better known as jazz hands] during our democratic events, to make those events more accessible and inclusive for all, including people who suffer from anxiety,” Oxford sabbatical officer Roisin McCallion said. Clapping is also represented by waving and twisting the hands in American Sign Language.

“Inclusivity is one of the students’ union’s founding principles. We recognize certain groups are underrepresented in political environments and we are working to address that. This policy is one way of doing so inside Oxford SU.”

The move has been met with criticism, with one former student calling it “completely ludicrous,” The Sun reported.

Students at the University of Manchester in Manchester, England voted to ditch clapping, whooping and cheering at the union’s democratic events last year, arguing that they can be distressing for those with autism, sensory issues or deafness.

In response to the negative press, a union spokesperson told iNews that “we are not banning audible clapping — we understand some people may be more comfortable to continue using it.

“We hope this decision goes some way towards promoting a better way of doing politics so that more people from all walks of life find it easier to participate in decision-making that will affect the way their Students’ Union is run."

The National Union of Students encouraged its members to ditch clapping in 2015, warning those who continue to whoop and cheer would face “consequences,” The Telegraph reported.

Does clapping trigger anxiety?

Loud noises are not considered a common cause of anxiety. However, a condition called hyperacusis can make everyday sounds like chewing, barking and jingling coins sound louder than they are.

The condition can be triggered by tinnitus, a head injury or Lyme disease, according to Britain’s National Health Service. While it may not seem serious, the health service warns a hyperacusis sufferer’s relationships, work and “general wellbeing” can all be affected.

Many autistic people also experience “meltdowns” when they feel overwhelmed, according to the National Autistic Society in the U.K..

Those with autism often have “sensory differences.” As a result, even a loud announcement at a train station can trigger pain and “sensory overload,” the charity adds.

Hannah Molesworth, who has autism, told the BBC last year that she “literally freezes up,” has a meltdown or “runs away” when she hears clapping.

Deaf people also typically opt for jazz hands over clapping at events. Hearing aids can pick up on the sound, turning it into an irritating white noise.

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