Vision Sports Ireland’s newest programme, ‘Pass-Sport’ is enabling people who are blind and vision impaired to return to sport. Pass-Sport has been approved under Phase 3 of the Government Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business and the return to Sport.
The Pass-Sport programme registers Vision Sports’ members and their guide/pilot from outside of their household, to enable travel to and from a sport or leisure facility and to participate in exercise, including running, swimming, blind tennis and tandem bike riding. The programme supports potential contact tracing requirements in place by the HSE and Department of Health.
Five-time Paralympic gold medallist Jason Smyth speaks enthusiastically about the programme, “the introduction of the Pass-Sport guide system will help so many blind and vision impaired people return to their favourite sports. Vision Sports Ireland deserve great credit for developing this innovative and safe solution. I encourage everyone, especially blind and vision impaired people, to get into exercise and help improve overall health.”
Whilst a Sport Ireland general population survey reports record low levels of sedentary behaviour at just 11% of the population, a survey by Vision Sports Ireland, now a part of NCBI, found a stark difference amongst people who are blind or vision impaired. 75% of blind and visually impaired respondents were unable to meet national recommended guidelines on physical activity during Covid-19, with an alarming 90% reporting their physical activity had been severely limited due to Covid-19, largely due to physical and social distancing guidelines restricting the use of guides/pilots for exercise. Half of surveyed members additionally reported a strong negative impact on their mental health as a result of these exercise restrictions.
Speaking on the matter, Aaron Mullaniff, NCBI Deputy Chief Services Officer stated that “for many blind and vision impaired people who live alone, leaving the house to exercise is not possible because of the need for a guide or pilot. Under physical distancing requirements, exercise is consequently not possible for many unless alternate programmes are in place. Pass-Sport is one of Vision Sports’ solutions that has been rolled out to address this challenge.”
Alongside Vision Sports’ innovative Long-Cane Physical Distancing Exercise, supported by volunteer guides recruited from the parkrun community, attention has been turned to the Pass-Sport registration system to enable people with a vision impairment to participate in sport and physical activity with a guide from outside of their household.
“Regular physical activity and exercise are vital to support mental health and reduce severity of chronic conditions. It is important that we are doing all we can to support our blind and vision impaired members to remain safe and physically active during this time.”
It is understood that social distancing protocols and advice from the HSE/ Department of Health and Sport Ireland will be maintained whilst participating under the Pass-Sport programme.
Pass-Sport is open to all Vision Sports Ireland members.