Mike Brace CBE, Primary Club trustee and former Paralympian, explains why the Club’s role is more important than ever.
The need for the Primary Club, and the support it offers for sport and physical recreation for the blind and partially sighted, has never been greater.
I have been a trustee for nearly 40 years and have seen the range of sports undertaken by the visually impaired grow, but so too have the costs of providing specialist facilities and equipment. With 70% of working-age vision-impaired people unemployed, the affordability of participation is a key factor.
The Primary Club grants have been a lifeline to many budding sports men and women which have enabled clubs and organisations to provide the opportunities to participate in many sports initially with cricket but subsequently in sound-tennis, goalball, athletics, swimming, winter sports, shooting, archery and many more. As someone who is totally blind I have experienced first-hand just how much the Primary Club have contributed to the active lives of many VI people.
Forty years ago, 95% of children and young people with a VI were educated in special schools. This is where many learned to play sport without sight. Nowadays, less than 5% of VI children and young people are educated in special schools and their opportunities to undertake sport of any kind largely comes from local charity groups and sports clubs many of which have been supported by the Primary Club.
Some have gone on to represent their country at the highest level, and others have just revelled in the freedom of movement that sport can provide. One of the most memorable grants that I have had the privilege to make as a trustee, was to a school to provide a specialist auditory/soft play area for the severely physically and visually disabled children.
Levels of obesity in the VI population are estimated to be at least double that of the non-disabled and once the current crisis is over, the need to re-establish a wide range of sporting and physical activity will be greater than ever, and that is where you come in.