Press Release – 16/03/2023
In 2021, Vision Sports Ireland began a journey to address the under representation of people who are blind or vision impaired in sport. Recent research from Sport Ireland detailed the low participation and high drop out rates evidenced nationally for girls and women in sport and physical activity (Sport Ireland, 2021). In partnership with NCBI, Vision Sports Ireland has started the conversation on exercise habits, barriers and promoters for girls and women who are blind or vision impaired to gain a greater understanding of supports and opportunities required to enable engagement in a healthy lifestyle. With sport and physical activity strongly linked with positive health outcomes and wellbeing, continued engagement in sport throughout the lifecycle is vital.
As a first step in the journey, Vision Sports have undertaken a two stage research project in partnership with DCU, investigating baseline physical literacy and fundamental movement skills in teenage girls aged 10-17. Preliminary results from Stage 1 suggest girls who are blind or vision impaired may already be at a disadvantage to maintaining a healthy lifestyle due to reduced confidence and participation in sport and physical activity.
- Only one in two participants were categorised as having a “healthy” VO2 max score with more than double the number of females categorised as “at a health risk” for cardiorespiratory endurance, compared to their male counterparts.
Stage 2 of the research focused on current physical activity levels, gaps to access and barriers to physical activity. In depth interviews were completed with girls and women across the lifecycle about their engagement in exercise and physical activity. Key findings from Stage 2 of the research highlighted:
- Only 22% of respondents met the National Physical Activity Guidelines for adults, compared to the national average of 41% (ISM, 2022).
- 100% of respondents had stopped doing at least one sport as a result of their decline in vision.
- 44% of respondents noted a decline in their confidence to participate as a result of vision loss.
- 44% listed inaccessibility of facilities as a barrier to engagement.
In response to these stark findings, over the coming months, Vision Sports Ireland in partnership with our key NGB and service partners, aim to address and respond to the feedback and findings, and work to continue to improve access to and participation in sport and recreational activities.
Kristina Millar, Women in Sport lead with Vision Sports Ireland, highlighted the importance of this research, “As sport and physical activity are strongly linked with positive health outcomes, this research is a vital first step in our journey to understand and address additional barriers that are present for girls and women who are blind or vision impaired, to enable access to, and benefit from the uncaptured health benefits of sport and physical activity. We look forward to utilising this research to inform our decisions and further increase our service offering to our members through our Women in Sport programmes.”
To find out more and read the full report, an accessible PDF is available here:
Sara Mc Fadden | Women in Sport Lead
Vision Sports Ireland, NCBI, Whitworth Road, Dublin 9.