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Charity research shows top sports for visually impaired

Metro Blind Sport is calling on more leisure operators to engage with the visually impaired community and help break down barriers to a healthy lifestyle.

The charity’s latest Impact Report reveals that the three forms of exercise most appealing to visually impaired individuals are cycling (40 per cent), swimming (39.5 per cent) and gong to the gym (35 per cent). All respondents to the online survey were already involved in sport in some way, either through the charity or one of its partners.

According to the report, which explores the attitude, preferences and behaviours of its visually impaired network with regards to physical activity, factors that would increase participation are facilities close to home (67 per cent), availability of specialist coaching (47 percent) and somebody to go with (43 per cent).

The main barriers to participation cited were venue location (17 per cent), lack of information about available activities (14 per cent) and nobody to go with (14 per cent).

Almost half of participants (47 per cent) have to travel more than five miles to participate in sport with 28 per cent travelling more than 10 miles. Nine in 10 respondents (94 per cent) feel more could be done to encourage participation amongst those with a visual impairment.

According to the most recent Sport England Active Lives Survey, more than half (54 per cent) of people with a visual impairment are ‘inactive’, achieving less than 30 minutes of activity per week.

Martin Symcox, CEO at Metro Blind Sport, said:

It is estimated that there are two million people in the UK, including 194,000 Londoners, living with sight loss that significantly impacts upon their life. This presents a significant opportunity to leisure operators who can reduce barriers and provide inclusive services.

The 2019 State of The Fitness Industry Report by The Leisure Database Company, states there are 2,729 public sector fitness facilities in the UK. All of these will be offering swimming, cycling and/or gym facilities. Our survey reports these are the activities most appealing to our visually impaired community, raising the question: ‘Why is there a disconnect between available facilities and engagement?’

Over the coming months, I plan to focus on this area. Working in collaboration with leisure operators and ukactive and providing access to our survey results, I want to help operators to better understand how to engage with the visually impaired community. In addition to the many social, mental and health benefits this will deliver to individuals, it will also open up a new market to operators who can engage with a greater percentage of their communities.

Photo: Metro Blind Sport