Gym Owner Monthly

New free toolkit to help facilities make physical activity accessible to visually impaired people

UK Coaching and Thomas Pocklington Trust urge leisure and sports providers to make their facilities more accessible to visually impaired people and have just launched free training to show them how to do just that.


The new toolkit, Inclusive facilities: Supporting people with a visual impairment contains videos and resources leisure operators can use to train staff.


Kelly Rodrigues from UK Coaching said: “Small adjustments can make a huge difference for people with a visual impairment to access leisure facilities and sports, and become more active. These are as simple as a member of staff approaching a visually impaired person and introducing themselves.


“We are asking sports and leisure facilities to encourage all their staff – from the front desk to their personal trainers – to get engaged with this training programme and make sport accessible in their venues.”


Martin Symcox, Sports Development Lead at Thomas Pocklington Trust, said: “One of the greatest barriers to blind and partially sighted people participating in sport is confidence and we know disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive*, compared to non-disabled people.


“Knowing that a leisure or sport provider understands their needs, helps increase confidence and makes visually impaired people more likely to choose that place to do exercise.”


The toolkit is a free resource open to all leisure providers and contains:

  • What is a visual impairment?
  • What makes an accessible environment?
  • Guiding and communicating
  • The benefits of an accessible environment


Tara Dillon, CEO at the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA), said: “It’s good to see the sight loss and physical activity sectors working together to upskill the workforce. This toolkit will provide valuable support to leisure operators. I would encourage them to use the free resource to help blind and partially sighted people have equal access to sport and physical activity.”


Lucy Barrett, Assistant Manager at Energise Leisure Centre, said: “The training on the UK Coaching website is great.  I would definitely recommend it to other leisure operators. Often people are unsure about what to say and nervous about saying the wrong thing.  This training gives staff confidence in communicating with visually impaired people, improves understanding of visual impairment and provides tips on how to create an accessible environment.


“My advice to other leisure operators would be to ensure all their staff go through this training.  For example, our reception staff are not yet trained how to support visually impaired people and these would be the first people to meet and greet them.  I will be recommending all our staff do this in our weekly staff training sessions.  It will definitely improve the service that we deliver.”


Martin added: “The changes to the environment and procedures are often simple and inexpensive to implement and could actually be of financial benefit as more visually impaired people choose that facility to spend their money.  We will be looking for examples of good practise across the country and will be sharing these with the sight loss community. So, we urge operators to take a look at the toolkit and train their teams.”


** Sport England: Active Lives Survey 2021