Vision Sports Ireland embark on new research in collaboration with DCU

Vision Sports Ireland in Collaboration with Dublin City University and the Insight Centre will explore the physical activity in blind and visually impaired children, young people and adults.



Vision Sports Ireland, National Council for the Blind of Ireland, are delighted to collaborate with DCU’s School of Health and Human Performance at DCU and the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics. It hopes to support these children to participate in a sport of their choice, and sustain that into adulthood.

2016 Census data revealed stark challenges faced by visually impaired people participating in leisure and other activities, with two in every five declaring difficulty in that regard*.

This ambitious project aims to carry out a first of its kind investigation of the physical activity, sports participation, and wellbeing of blind and vision impaired children and adolescents. In essence, a ‘snapshot’ of the state of play in Ireland with recommendations for future development and policy in this area.

By identifying sport and leisure options, issues, and barriers across the lifecycle, the team involved believe that the level of sports participation can be greatly increased among this cohort of young people and also by those who may be vulnerable to economic, social and educational disadvantage. The project also aligns with Sport Ireland’s recently released research strategy.

Prof. Noel O’Connor, CEO, Insight SFI Research Centre of Data Analytics, said: “We all aspire to a truly inclusive society yet the findings of the 2016 census on participation levels of the visually impaired in sport and leisure activities highlight a key national challenge in this regard. It is our duty as a society to better understand why this is happening, and on this basis find ways of addressing the situation.

This project will address the first of these challenges – measuring and understanding the extent of the challenge. Under the expert guidance of our partners, Insight researchers will apply state of the art data collection and analysis techniques. The learnings we elicit from this first of a kind study will allow all partners to work together to affect positive change.”

Aaron Mullaniff on behalf of National Council for the Blind in Ireland and Vision Sports Ireland noted that the research project is a critical stepping stone to putting in place needs led structures and programmes which will increase physical activity ‘life chances’ for blind and vision impaired people across the entire lifecycle.

He added that “the absence of research in this space has been a major stumbling block to understanding the barriers to and participation levels of blind and visually impaired people in physical activity. NCBI and Vision Sports capacity to bring about positive change and opportunity is very much dependent on deep engagement with credible and impactful partners like The Insight SFI Research Centre and DCUs School of Health and Human Performance who will ultimately play an influential role in supporting the National Governing Body [Vision Sports Ireland] to leverage new opportunities to promote higher levels of meaningful participation in physical activity and in turn improved overall health and well-being of blind and vision impaired people”.

Dr Sarahjane Belton, from the School of Health and Human Performance at DCU said: “Physical inactivity is one of the greatest health crises facing us in Ireland, and across the world, levels of physical activity in the general population are dangerously low, leading to increased risk of a range of chronic health problems for both children and adults.

Unfortunately, our national physical activity surveillance studies in Ireland to date have not included blind and vision impaired children and adults. Findings in terms of health inequality across the world would suggest that this cohort are at even greater risk of low levels of activity – purley because of the additional barriers and challenges they face in accessing health enhancing physical activity opportunities. This first of its kind research will allow us to investigate the level of the challenges faced, and take the first steps to addressing barriers and increasing opportunities – ultimately leading to enhanced quality of life and increased health outcomes of blind and vision impaired children and adults in Ireland”.

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