Welcome to my blog! I started writing this blog post about the training I took last year at #Cooleparkrun for visually impaired people, but never got around publishing it!
I finished another #CooleParkrun today and thought it was time to share my experience in the hope it will motivate others to take the training and to encourage people that are visually impaired to make a leap of faith and join us at #Cooleparkrun . You’ll find information at the end how it works!
Training to guide people with visual impairments
I had seen on the Facebook page from #Cooleparkrun that training was set up to be a guide for visually impaired participants, so they too can take part in the Coolepark Run. CoolePark starts at 9:30, but on this occasion I was extra early as the training started at 8:30, delivered by Padraig Fahy the County Galway Ambassador.
What does visually impaired mean?
It means that people have issues seeing, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and other distortions such as diabetic retinopathy to people that are fully blind. Padraig introduced us to the various types of visual impairments by showing us glasses that simulated the conditions or a blindfold to simulate blindness. Once you put on the glasses you get a good idea of what the world looks like if you have cataracts. The glasses were fully scratched and I really couldn’t see very much. Glaucoma was another condition, where you have limited vision. It made me realize how lucky I am that I can see, even if I have to wear glasses to see far, that’s minor in comparison to the conditions we experienced.
Connected with a bungy
A bungy is used between the guide and visually impaired participant, however it is the visually impaired participant that leads, not the guide. Padraig then talked us through how to introduce yourself by giving the person a hand to make them feel welcome but also to make them feel safe. You then agree which side they would like you to be, if they would like to run or walk , and off you go.
The buddy is your eyes
My buddy was Padraig ( another one!) As I walked , Padraig guided me by voice by letting me know what the surface was like, and if it is changing, and gave me ample warning for obstacles. In our case, Padraig ( the first one) had prepared our terrain with branches so Padraig would tell move left, move right but also mentioned things like the surface is changing. The more information the better, so the visually impaired person gets a good idea where they are.
The last scenario was when I was blindfolded. I closed my eyes, as I felt I could concentrate more on Padraig’s voice. Once I felt confident I could trust the guide, I felt quite comfortable walking and enjoyed the experience.
Visually impaired guides for visually impaired walkers and runners
The guide can assist both walking but also running visually impaired, register at https://www.parkrun.ie/register/. Then contact email@example.com and specify if you are runner or walker, the time it takes you to walk or run 5 km, and then a message goes out to the trained volunteers to ask if they are available to guide the visually impaired participant. Hope this will encourage someone who is visually impaired to take part at any of the parkruns in Ireland or further afield. If you are interested to volunteer we would love to hear from you! Visit https://www.parkrun.ie/coole/ to find out more.