Maleeka is a typical 12-year-old who enjoys video games, listening to music and playing with her kitten called silver. Her vivacious and optimistic outlook on life is infectious, and at SportsAble’s Archery sessions, she is a popular member renowned for her “can-do” attitude.
Born with a condition called Lebers congenital amaurosis, Maleeka is one of the 21,500 children under the age of 25 living with visual impairment in England*. Her condition means that sometimes objects in the distance look blurry and less detailed, brightly lit environments are uncomfortable and differentiating between colours is difficult.
(*Royal National Institute of Blind People)
However, none of these stop Maleeka from living life to the full and besides enjoying drawing and other creative arts, she is also learning how to play the flute. Maleeka wants other Visually Impaired People (VIPs) people to try sport and has some wise words for anyone who wants to try:
1. Don’t let others put you down and discourage you
2. Don’t doubt yourself and think you can’t do it
3. Never give up on any of your dreams, stay strong!!
Maleeka joined SportsAble four years ago after struggling to find a sports club outside of school that was accessible and had experience with VIPs. Despite trying to get involved at her local leisure centre, Maleeka found their lack of specialist knowledge and experience of dealing with visual impairment meant she didn’t enjoy the sessions and left feeling deflated rather than inspired.
When Maleeka spoke to Berkshire Vision about her dilemma, they suggested SportsAble in Maidenhead, Berkshire. As a multi-sports disability club, SportsAble offers a range of different activities for its members, including archery, Boccia, New Age Kurling, Kayaking, Wheelchair basketball and swimming. See the full activity schedule here .
The SportsAble coaching team delivers sport to members with a variety of physical and sensorial disabilities, removing barriers to participation and tailoring sessions to meet individuals’ needs. In this environment, Maleeka feels safe and confident to try sports.
Today, Maleeka is a regular member of the Archery section and is joined on a weekly basis by her mum Fizz who also participates.
“I love SportsAble because they inspire me to play sports,” says Maleeka. “They showed me I can do it, and there are no reasons visually impaired people cannot take part in sporting activities. They really have helped me and taught me everything I know about archery.
“Before joining SportsAble I only felt safe and confident doing sport at school because my teachers really understood my condition and what I was capable of. When I tried to visit my local leisure centre, they were a little impatient with me and tried to make me do things I wasn’t capable of, so I really didn’t enjoy it.
“My personal experience is that average sports clubs do not have the expertise or the time to help VIPs. If they really want to run inclusive sports, they need to take more time and effort to understand our needs and how to help us. “
According to recent research by the Royal National Institute for Blind People, 64% of VIPs want to become more active and 57% felt that their condition was a barrier to physical activity.
Niall McCaffrey, SportsAble’s Sports Manager says, “Maleeka is a great example of how an exclusive environment has successfully removed barriers and enabled her to participate in sport. Here she feels safe and confident taking part in a sport such as Archery.
“Inclusivity is a fantastic movement within the sports industry, but it is important to be mindful that this doesn’t suit everyone. There is still a need for exclusive sessions for people with disabilities and SportsAble can deliver this.”
Finances can be a barrier for disabled people and according to the Disabled Living Foundation the annual cost of bringing up a disabled child is three times greater than bringing up a non-disabled child, and the average income of families with disabled children is 23.5% below the UK mean income. SportsAble also works hard to keep its membership fees to just £75 per annum, which is equivalent to £6.25 per month.
Maleeka’s mum Fizz says, “SportsAble has given a great opportunity to both Maleeka and I to discover what is possible when a person has a physical challenge. Meeting and playing alongside pros and Paralympians has given us a deep rooted belief that the human form is powerful. Even if one of the senses is weak, we can tap into the power hidden in other senses to really achieve whatever we want in life. At SportsAble we are also surrounded with positive minded individuals who believe in us. This is essential for growth.”
Maleeka even writes her own blog to motivate other visually impaired youngsters. Read more here
If you would like to know more about joining SportsAble or supporting us through fundraising, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01628 627690.
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