Making a Splash: 20 Years of RNIB Connect Radio
RNIB Connect Radio’s presenters are taking on a series of impressive challenges to bust the myths around what people with sight loss can do and to mark twenty years of broadcasting.
The award-winning station in Partick, Glasgow was established by sight loss charity RNIB to provide news, information and entertainment to blind and partially sighted people across the country. Its presenters, many of whom have sight loss themselves, will be taking lessons from other blind and partially sighted professionals to learn something new while aiming to bust myths around what people think blind and partially sighted people can and can’t do.
The next challenge of the series was a lesson in prone paddle boarding, which took place on Tuesday, August 1 in Blairgowrie. Prone paddle boarding involves lying, kneeling, or standing on a paddleboard or surfboard and propelling yourself through the water with either a paddle or your hands.
RNIB Connect Radio’s Content Producer Amelia Hilton, said:
“I’ve always wanted to try paddle boarding as I grew up by the water in the southeast of England and would often see people gliding across the water on their stand-up paddle boards, but have never made time to do it.
“When we decided to do the Blind Leading activities, I thought I’d seize the opportunity to finally try it and explore nature in part of Scotland I’d never visited before! I really enjoy doing sports but have never really got into water sports, so I’ve had the chance to test a new skill and move my body in a brand new way.
“I love working with my radio colleagues. Since joining the team last year, they’ve made me feel very welcome. My highlights have included interviewing literary translator Nichola Smalley and starting up the Round Tables where I get to ask questions to and hear wonderful conversations between blind and partially sighted panelists.”
Amelia had the chance to try out the sport at Clunie Loch, Blairgowrie with Dean Dunbar, a blind water sports enthusiast.
Amelia explains: "I searched out Dean online, who in 2017 became the first person to paddle board from North Uist to St Kilda, and it turns out he does loads of other extreme sports!”
Prone paddle boarding enthusiast Dean Dunbar became partially sighted overnight at 9 years old and was later registered blind, due to rod-cone dystrophy, a condition affecting the eye’s retina. He says,
“I go hooked on adrenaline after my first skydive, two years after being registered blind and then got involved in loads of different sports- bungee jumping, snowboarding, mountain biking, and more recently, water sports.
“I’ve been doing stand-up paddle boarding for a few years but after an injury in 2018, I tried lying down paddle boarding, and I’ve been ‘taking it easy’ ever since!
“With sight loss, I can pretty much be left to myself as I know my own local loch well, but for races or in bigger areas of water, I have sighted guides that join me on their own boards and we use an audio device to relay directions.
“Prone paddle boarding is very easy, it’s just like swimming on top of the water, but you get a bit less wet. With Amelia, we let her try a few different boards and stand-up paddleboarding techniques too, but ultimately it’s just been about enjoying the water!”
This is one of several events that RNIB Connect Radio have organised to celebrate their 20th anniversary, with lessons in pursuits such as singing, skiing and wrestling still to come. The station started in 2003, borne of a partnership between RNIB, Glasgow City Council and others, including the BBC. Now RNIB Connect Radio reaches over 80,000 thousand listeners and its podcasts are downloaded over 20,000 times each month.
* RNIB Connect Radio can be heard on 101 FM the Glasgow area, and elsewhere on Freeview 730 and online at https://www.rnib.org.uk/connect-radio/