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Swim England backs campaign to get more blind and partially sighted people active

Swim England is backing a national campaign to encourage the UK’s two million blind and partially sighted people to get more physically active.

The See Sport Differently campaign is run by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in partnership with British Blind Sport.

The aim is to tackle lower levels of wellbeing amongst blind and partially sighted people by highlighting the benefits of physical activity, and demonstrating that sight loss doesn’t need to be a barrier to participation.

Mike Hawkes, Swim England Inclusion and Health and Safety Partner, described this as an ‘important’ piece of work.

He said: “We are excited to back this important campaign. Swimming and aquatic activity is for everyone and those with visual impairments should be able to experience the benefits of being in the water.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with British Blind Sport to help meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people in sport.”

Supporting the campaign is Hackney Aquatics swimmer, Saffire Fontenelle, who revealed how sport has helped her.

She said: “I’ve gone from being the one who always stands back, to the one in front and achieving.”

Regular physical activity

New research behind the campaign, shows that blind and partially sighted people are being put off from sport and exercise and are twice as likely to be completely inactive as other people.

More than half of blind and partially sighted people (53 per cent) do less than 30 minutes of physical activity each week.

This falls far short of the NHS recommended guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate exercise and is almost double the national average of 27 per cent.

The research found that eight in 10 blind and partially sighted people agree on the importance of regular physical activity.

However, almost half (48 per cent) said that their visual impairment prevented them from being more active and a similar number, 53 per cent, said they didn’t have the right opportunities.

A third said there were fitness activities that they would like to try but haven’t been able to, such as swimming, cycling, going to the gym, playing tennis and horse riding.

Inspirational Paralympic success

As the national governing body for aquatics, Swim England hope that Great Britain’s Paralympic swimming success will inspire more people to get involved.

Visually impaired swimmers, such as the S12 duo of Hannah Russell and Stephen Clegg, made it onto the podium a number of times at the Games.

Between the pair, they claimed a total of five medals in Tokyo – one gold, one silver and three bronze medals.

British Blind Sport Chief Executive, Alaina MacGregor, explained that now is a ‘crucial time’ due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “We are thrilled to be working in partnership with RNIB on the See Sport Differently project.

“In light of the pandemic, and the impact it has had on everyone’s mental and physical wellbeing, there has never been a more crucial time to support blind and partially sighted people to get more active.

“Together we want to encourage adults and children to get involved, whatever their ability. Whether a complete novice or a seasoned athlete, we want to ensure there is something for everyone.”

To find out more about the campaign and how to get involved, visit the British Blind Sport website.