Funded by the Big Lottery Fund, CIB works with Better Cardiff Leisure Centres in Llanishen, Star, Maindy, Fairwater, Pentwyn and Western to make activities such as fitness, swimming, spin, pilates, yoga, aqua sessions more accessible and welcoming for people with sight loss.
The four year project sees Better Cardiff staff arrange various taster sessions, coaching and open days for visually impaired people. CIB volunteers then accompany people to an organised activity for the first time, make initial introductions, show people around to allow them to familiarise themselves with the layout and help to plan and establish travel routes.
“I really want to go to my local leisure centre and swim without support but I’m worried about going on my own since my sight has deteriorated”, said Tafsila Khan from Cardiff at the start of the project. “But this project helps me do this and a lot more by talking to organisations like leisure centres about the issues I face and hopefully they will make some simple changes to make it easier and more enjoyable for me and others whose sight condition can make daily tasks really challenging.”
Tafsila now regularly attends Western Leisure Centre, to swim, use the gym and attend spin and other fitness classes. The staff all know her and greet her by name, as do many of the other gym users. They are happy to offer assistance when required. Other visually impaired people are now regularly using Better leisure centres and all comment on how welcome and comfortable they feel and how relaxed and confident the staff are in accommodating their varying needs. The project also supports blind and partially sighted people to organise their own individual or group activities.
Jane McCann, Community Co-ordinator for Cardiff Institute for the Blind, commented:
“Sight loss can have a huge effect on people’s confidence. With the help of Better, this Big Lottery funded project is transforming the number of accessible opportunities blind and partially sighted people have to take part in sport, leisure and interest activities in Cardiff. We are beginning to notice the ripple effect. The more people with sight loss participate in local sport and leisure opportunities, the more awareness there is of our needs and the easier it becomes to have a conversation about how best to accommodate those needs.
“Better Cardiff staff have made small but important changes at their leisure centres such as adding yellow tape to the treadmills to highlight the edges. The newly refurbished gyms have quite a few machines with tactile buttons and paddles for changing the resistance, making it easier for those who can’t read screens to operate the equipment independently. All staff are being made aware of the needs that visually impaired people have from time to time. They are great at greeting visually impaired people by name and letting them know where and who they are, in case help is needed.”
Rhys Jones, Senior Project Manager, Better Cardiff said:
“We are pleased to be taking part in this project which reduces the isolation and dependency often felt by people with sight loss by supporting them to access our sport and leisure opportunities and have the confidence to come along and join in. “As a social enterprise we are committed to making our service more accessible to visually impaired people. This includes improving signage, making paperwork accessible and training our staff in partnership with Social Services Rehab Team/Guide Dogs/RNIB/CIB. Making sure our leisure centres offer a positive experience is having a beneficial effect on many lives in Cardiff.”
Individuals or organisations wanting to take part in the project can telephone one of CIB’s regional offices or visit www.cibi.co.uk