Contrary to popular knowledge, sailing can be accessible to the visually impaired. Here is an inspiring account and some resources from Jane Abbott – Managing Director at PCR Digital
Two weeks ago, I spent the weekend on a sailing boat for 3 days as part of a 5-day course to learn how to become a competent crew member. Despite the wind, rain, hail and sleeping in what can only be described as an oversized coffin, I found the whole weekend exhilarating. I was learning new skills and knowledge from the moment our instructor arrived.
My biggest learning hurdle seemed to be the wind, the terminology surrounding it and how you handle the boat in it. But then my instructor told me to close my eyes, turn my head and feel the wind on my cheek. He then told me to turn my head again and asked me what I could hear and where I could feel the wind on my skin. We were changing direction and – without having sight – I could tell the direction of the wind and feel the boat change course beneath my feet. It was all starting to make sense and I realised we lose so many senses when we rely on sight alone. My instructor then went on to tell me how the sailors of old used all these additional senses and how visually impaired people can learn to sail.
I’ve spent many years working on Accessibility roles and set up the London Accessibility Meet-Up in London in 2015. I’ve since passed the reigns on but back at my desk I wanted to understand more about blind sailing. It seems there is a whole community out there of visually impaired sailors – from those starting to sail having never tried it before right through to those competing as part of Great Britain’s team at international competitions (where it seems we are pretty good, winning in 2017 and 2018). So, I thought it would be worth sharing some information for anyone who is visually impaired who wants to find out about learning to sail. You can sail with sighted or with visually impaired crews, so anyone can get on board with you!
Resources for sailing for the Visually Impaired:
I’ll be returning to Ipswich this weekend to complete the 5 days of training and once I’m accredited with Competent Crew, I’m hoping to work towards getting Day Skipper accreditation. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to racing standard – but never say never and who knows what you can achieve until you try.