See My Voice: Thomas
See My Voice is a sports leadership volunteer programme for young people with a disability. The project helps Young Leaders gain confidence and develop life skills, which will inevitably boost their self-esteem and improve their employment prospects. It also raises awareness of and assists organisations in creating inclusive volunteering opportunities.
17-year-old Thomas, like many people with a disability, found it difficult to find information about inclusive activities and services in his community. His sight loss also posed additional challenges during his sporting journey.
“I tried a mixture of different sports, each with its own set of challenges. I needed prescription goggles for swimming, which made diving difficult. In cricket, it was hard to keep up with the pace of the ball moving. I discovered that Ju Jitsu offered a very welcoming environment, and any issues that arose were addressed through meetings in which I explained how coaches could best support me."
Some progress has been made in providing more inclusive sporting opportunities, but there is still work to be done. BBS research shows that blind and partially sighted people’s early sporting experiences have a significant impact on the long-term perceptions of their sporting abilities. Thomas says Ju Jitsu helped build his confidence, improve his coordination, opened doors to new opportunities and has had a positive impact on his everyday life.
“I started participating in Ju Jitsu when I was 7 years old. As I progressed, I was invited to join my club's leadership programme at the age of 15. This meant that I got to share my knowledge with younger participants and help them to develop their skills.”
Eager to grow his passion, Thomas joined BBS’s 2022 See My Voice programme to develop his coaching abilities and gain a level 2 award for sport and activity volunteering. This is an exciting year for See My Voice as we are 'scaling up’ the project to include young people with various impairments. It is a fantastic opportunity for our Young Leaders to gain an understanding of inclusive coaching and have a positive impact on the wider sporting community. The expansion of the programme allows BBS to offer more meaningful volunteering experiences and support more organisations to adopt inclusive volunteering practices nationwide.
"See My Voice has given me the opportunity to investigate the various roles and responsibilities available when volunteering. It has helped me focus on different skills and set a development plan to help the skills that need to be improved, while also maintaining the level of the skills I am already good at."
Volunteering can act as a gateway to employment for people with disabilities and can be socially and emotionally fulfilling. Thomas wants to show others, as well as the sports industry, that his sight loss does not need to be a barrier to sport participation or volunteering. As part of the programme, he is volunteering with organisations to raise awareness of sight loss across the sports sector, improve accessibility at venues and create more inclusive opportunities. He has the following advice for anyone who is looking to take part in the programme or get into volunteering.
“Give it a go! It has helped me to build on different skills and educated me on what is needed when volunteering. It has also given me the chance to meet and interact with new people with varying disabilities and needs which in turn has made me understand different conditions more.”
BBS has developed a toolkit to help organisations offer accessible and inclusive opportunities. To download the toolkit or find out more about the scaling up of our See My Voice programme, visit: https://britishblindsport.org.uk/see-my-voice/