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See Sport Differently Report

This research gives findings on physical activity and sports participation among people with sight loss.

Introducing See Sport Differently, a three-year Sport England funded programme to increase participation and improve blind and partially sighted people’s experience of sport and physical activity. We believe that working together, RNIB and British Blind Sport can make a significant difference to the lives of people with sight loss.

Sport and physical activity has the power to be transformational. It can create community and belonging, provide challenge and identity, and is the most wonderful way to stay healthy while having fun.

The latest evidence, as outlined in this report, provides a stark message about the importance of See Sport Differently. Blind and partially sighted people are twice as likely to be inactive, and less likely to participate in sport or physical activity compared to people without sight loss.

A key theme from our research is that no matter where someone is on their sight loss journey, perceptions of blindness and sight loss, stop people from engaging with sport and physical activity in the way they want. Many barriers faced by people with sight loss derive from a lack of awareness and understanding of sight loss across the sports sector – an issue reflected by the sporting workforce themselves.

The impact of COVID-19 has been significant across so many spheres of life, but it does provide an opportunity to re-engage people in sport. We’ve seen that coronavirus has had an even greater impact on physical activity levels of disabled people. This research has shown us that there is a very clear desire from people with sight loss to be more active, linked to feelings of coming out of lockdown.

We now have a real opportunity to turn the dial on blind and partially sighted people’s involvement with sport and physical activity. And based on the insight from this report, we have a clear plan of action to address barriers and change behaviours through See Sport Differently.

Together, we have developed a programme of activity to empower blind and partially sighted people with the knowledge, motivation and confidence to get active; and for those working in the sports sector, a greater understanding of sight loss so they can facilitate participation.

Together, we will See Sport Differently.

Executive summary

  • Blind and partially sighted people are less physically active compared to the general public – they are twice as likely to be inactive.
  • People under 35 and living with sight loss have similar levels of activity to sighted people, but participation levels decrease after this age.
  • Although there is a desire to be more active, half of blind and partially sighted people feel that having sight loss stops them from exercising as much as they want to.
  • Accessibility and awareness, cost, confidence and transportation are all key barriers to accessing sport and physical activity for blind and partially sighted people.
  • Half of the general public do not strongly believe that blind and partially sighted people can play sport.
  • Blind and partially sighted people are half as likely to attend live sporting events compared to the England average. Venue accessibility is a major barrier.
  • There is a lack of confidence among coaches to work with blind and partially sighted people.
  • Sporting clubs and governing bodies struggle to reach blind and partially sighted people, and they lack awareness of the barriers faced by people with sight loss trying to access sports.
  • Many disability-specific programmes received a funding cut during the Coronavirus pandemic, adding to pressures on clubs and governing bodies.