Friday 3 February 2017
By Gary Hatt
Hi there, I’m Gary. I was born totally blind but am now partially sighted after a number of operations.
I’m currently into exercise classes and do Krav Maga (a type of self-defence) and I love doing both. However, it wasn’t always this way.
My first introduction to sport was at the Visually Impaired school I went to, playing football against other partially sighted players. As I grew up I wanted to play tennis but was pushed into the Visually Impaired group. I really didn’t like this as I wanted to be involved with all kinds of people.
I feel I’ve been segregated all through my life – even put into sheltered employment. This has made me feel as if I always have a label and am put into a box – but people aren’t that simple! In society people don’t engage with me, but with sport I get to mix with non-disabled people in a fun way.
Like anyone who’s trying to find a new activity that’s right for them, there was a lot of trial and error. Since moving to Norwich from London I’ve tried yoga, but frustratingly it didn’t work for me. I found it difficult to follow. I was always behind the fully sighted people in the class and really needed one-to-one tuition to follow the movements.
However, since starting Krav Maga I have been actively encouraged by the instructor and club members I fight with. They help me if I’m doing something wrong. I just turned up one day to the induction class, and joined the club. Since joining I have achieved a P1 in Krav Maga and I hope to do my P2 later this year. This will be more difficult but I’m determined to do it!
I also do an exercise class, with fully sighted people. This involves mat exercises and using hand held weights to do exercise. The members are helpful and the instructor is great! I also do an exercise class to music from a chair, or standing behind one! It’s great fun and we all have a laugh.
In addition to these two great activities, I play indoor Tennis and take part in Streetsmart – a self-defence class run by an instructor. Both are great fun and run by the Norfolk & Norwich Association for the Blind. What’s even more unbelievable is I also do off road driving at Elvedon! It takes place with instructors in a 4×4 vehicle and is so much fun. It’s brilliant for me as a visually impaired person to experience this as I’ve never driven!
If I didn’t do all this and engage with sport, I’d become isolated and this would lead to all sorts of health problems and make me feel depressed.
I can’t stress that it’s about having the confidence to do this! For some people, doing sport with other disabled people is great, but for others like me, it’s not always about being in the ‘visually impaired sport’ category. It’s about being equal and doing activities with non-disabled people. I really believe this makes everyone more accepting of disability and promotes us as the same. Our disability shouldn’t make us different. We just need a chance to express ourselves.
My advice is get out there! Put yourself into a club, speak to the instructor and the other members, explain how things should be adapted and what you need to take part. This is a great way for everyone to learn.
I find myself saying “I can do this”, if I’m given the opportunity.
There is so much non-integration in society, and sport really is a way to change this and to bring people together. Hopefully this will translate to other areas of society and can break down negative ideas about disability.
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