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Why do visually-impaired adults need opportunities to take part in adventurous activities?

Happy smiling caver getting to grips with some rockFirstly, some facts from the RNIB:

  • Almost half of blind and partially sighted people feel ‘moderately’ or ‘completely’ cut off from people and things around them.
  • Only one in four registered blind and partially sighted people of working age are in employment.
  • There is a link between sight loss and reduced wellbeing. Over one-third of older people with sight loss are also living with depression.

In 2014 (link opening in a new tab) Blind Sport published a survey entitled “Overcoming Barriers to Participation.”  They say:

“While this research shows that some progress has been made in providing more accessible sporting provision, there is still more work to be done. “

“Visually impaired people may have a low confidence in their abilities if they have had negative experiences in sport. Several participants indicated that they felt that the biggest barrier to taking part was themselves.”

What are the benefits?

The physical and mental benefits of adventurous outdoor activities are well known and include: improvements in confidence, self-esteem, resilience, fitness and health.

Visual impairment is a low incidence disability, especially among working age adults and can lead to feelings of isolation. On our courses and within our Facebook sites we give visually impaired people the chance to connect with other visually impaired people with the same interests.

The feelings of inclusion have an impact on people’s whole lives. People make new friends and crucially new support networks grow.

VI with raised foot doing a balancey movePerhaps the best way to describe the benefits is to finish with some quotes from a blog made made by Emily, a long term participant with both the Spirit and Vision of Adventure projects:

“…..Climbing and caving makes me feel fearless and powerful. During all these activities I don’t think about my visual impairment, I just feel happy.”

“…..I can honestly say this weekend changed my life. I made life-long friends and achieved more than I ever thought possible…….”

“…..Now, I am feeling stronger and more confident in my own abilities – if I can climb a rock then I can do anything!…..”

(More details (opening in a new tab) can be found in Emily’s blog.)

Why Vision of Adventure is required

Despite the many benefits, the opportunities to take part in such activities for people living with sight loss are extremely limited. Participation in instructor led activity is extremely expensive as each visually impaired participant needs a sighted guide who has some level of skill in the activity being undertaken. This effectively halves the instructor to participant ratio and doubles the accommodation costs.

It is also very difficult for individuals to find a guide with the appropriate skills and similar interests.

At Vision of Adventure we provide subsidised courses and volunteer guides. To be able to do this we rely on external funding and donations.

At transition with bike - guide in bright yellow looking back to VI who has hand on saddle

We help VI participants to access mainstream clubs and facilities where possible. We do this by signposting and supporting, as well as by training sighted guides. They then go back to their own clubs feeling more confident to accept visually impaired members. Our local cycling, triathlon and caving clubs are now comfortable welcoming visually impaired participants. We are spreading this to other clubs throughout the country.