Sport plays an important role in John’s life. He wants to help inspire other young people to be active!
20-year-old John has Rod Cones Dystrophy, a condition that has caused his eyesight to deteriorate over time. Growing up, John was always interested in sports, but his visual impairment made it difficult for him to participate in mainstream sports. Living in rural Northern Ireland, John says there wasn't much information available and that he never met anyone his age who faced similar issues, making him feel very out of place. Before BBS, John had no idea that sports could even be adapted to enable blind or partially sighted people to take part.
“It was amazing to see how changes could be made to increase participation. This allowed me to do more than I previously was able to. I am now doing Muay Thai and Jiu-jitsu.”
John is an advocate for the many benefits of sport. It has helped him with his mental health and introduced him to new people and experiences.
“Sport has played and continues to play a massive role in my life. It is a way for me to cope with stress. Sport also helps me socialise with other people, which is something I always used to struggle with. Sport had helped to increase my confidence and I now study sports coaching at university.”
John joined British Blind Sport’s Youth Advisory Panel in 2021 to act as a voice for young blind and partially sighted people. John, like many other visually impaired people, found it difficult to stay active during lockdown and lost motivation to take part in physical activity. Being part of the BBS Youth Advisory Panel, connecting with other young people who felt the same way and receiving support from the BBS team helped him feel more confident in returning to physical activity and pursuing his passion.
“Since joining the Youth Advisory Panel, I've met some amazing people who I'm proud to call my friends. People who have faced and overcome many challenges in their lives and who continue to prove that with the right support, you can do anything. It's incredible to meet people who understand and relate to my experiences, as opposed to people who are sympathetic but don't understand what it's like to deal with these issues. Having the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people with visual impairments is something I will always be grateful for and proud of."
John wants to show other blind and partially-sighted young people, as well as the sports industry, that sight loss does not need to be a barrier to participation. He is working with BBS to raise awareness of sight loss across the sports sector, improve accessibility at venues and create more inclusive opportunities. His advice for anyone with a visual impairment who is feeling isolated is to take the plunge and contact British Blind Sport.
“My advice is to get out there or go to BBS’ website to find activities to suit you. Where I grew up, that kind of information was never well known. Once you find a place, just go for it. It is scary to start something new, especially with a visual impairment. Taking part in physical activity is not only good for your physical health, but it is also a great way to meet new people and get rid of any negative thoughts. Meeting people who have gone through what you have will help you cope and understand that you really can do more than you believe.”
British Blind Sport helps blind and partially sighted people to find inclusive local activities. Visit the BBS Activity Finder to search for clubs or opportunities near you.
To find out more about our appeal to unite people with sight loss over Christmas and to assist us in combating inactivity and isolation amongst blind and partially sighted people, visit our Christmas Appeal page.