Featured International Agency of the Month: Blind Sports and Recreation Victoria

Date Posted: 05/06/2016

logo  with stylised image of 2 people.  In the center of the 2 people is a round image depicting a ball and eye. The logo is in 3 colors being black, blue and white

by Maribel Steel, VisionAware International Agency of the Month Correspondent

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month in the US. Not only are there many health and social benefits in participating in regular exercise by joining a sports group but there are also many organizations worldwide supporting people who are blind and visually impaired to continue staying fit through the pursuit of many recreational and competitive sports. This month we interview Maurice Gleeson, OAM President of Blind Sports & Recreation Victoria (BSRV), who shares how they are supporting Australians with a disability to follow their passion for sport.

Meet the President

Maurice Gleeson standing next to logo of agency

Maurice Gleeson oversees the operational aspects of the organization. His role is to work with sporting and recreation program coordinators within BSRV as well as other external sporting agencies to increase awareness and participation for people who are blind and vision impaired. His team is dedicated to providing people with the opportunity to get involved in recreational programs such as cricket, goalball, tandem cycling and tennis, to name a few. Check the links at the end of this article for further information on the new Tennis and Football (Soccer) Programs.

Brief History and Objectives

BSRV was established in Melbourne in 1977 to promote health and well-being for people who are blind or vision impaired. "In the early days, we supported existing clubs and groups," says Maurice Gleeson. "We have now diversified and continue to support sporting and recreational groups and clubs, as well as developing new initiatives and sporting/recreational programs for blind and vision impaired Victorians to take up recreational activities of their choice.”

BSRV Objectives

According to President Gleeson, "Our objectives include promoting health, well-being and community involvement for people who are blind and vision impaired by:

  • Participation in sport and recreational activities
  • Developing competitive and recreational sporting opportunities, and
  • Increasing sport and recreational participation for people of all ages with low vision."

Mr. Gleeson, who is totally blind as a result of having a double detached retina, says, "The enjoyment I get from my role is to see people who are blind and vision impaired participating in sports and enjoying the benefits associated with being involved in a sport of their choice."

Funding Challenges

BSRV receives minimal government funding but costs for participants are either free or minimal. Mr Gleeson explained the needs of BSRV: "It is always an ongoing challenge to meet the financial demands to provide sporting and recreational programs particularly as we are a state organisation. As our mission is to support people who are blind or vision impaired in the State of Victoria, we would like to ensure we can meet the financial demands to continue to develop and support our various sporting and recreational programs."

An invaluable source of income comes from corporate support and donations. BSRV is currently endeavoring to organize a major fundraising event biannually, such as a Gala dinner night.

Future Plans

Gleeson says, "Whilst we have significant progress in the disability sport arena, I still think we have a long way to go. However, we are continually making positive progress." One key area where BSRV hopes to grow is in the development of stronger and more productive links with generic sporting organizations.

Blind Football (Soccer) – an Aussie First!

With the support of the Football Federation Victoria, BSRV held the first Blind Football League in October 2015. There are two divisions: The B1 League which follows the international rules for Para-Olympics, and the B2/B3 League which is for keen players with varying degrees of vision loss. Sighted people are also able to participate in both competitions, equipped with eye masks, headguards and shirts. Even the youngsters have been introduced to the sport with the ‘mini-roos program’ to kick-start their interest in blind football which is designed for all ages!

Words of Thanks

Mr Gleeson acknowledges the strong support of the Executive Committee and his enthusiastic staff and volunteers who are BSRV's greatest resource. My thanks to Maurice Gleeson for giving his time for this interview.

More Information

Blind Sports & Recreation Victoria

Blind Tennis: a Youtube clip with visually impaired children from South Australia introducing the sport of Blind Tennis

If you are blind or visually impaired, why not consider joining a sporting group or team in the areas of Goalball, Golf, Judo, Lawn Bowls, Sailing, Swimming, Tandem cycling, Tenpin Bowling or, later in the year, Winter Sports, to have fun improving your fitness?

Further reading on VisionAware:

Want to start your own tandem bike club? See how by reading Tuesday Night Tandems: An Opportunity for Fun and Fitness

Make Physical Activity and Fitness a Way of Life by Audrey Demmitt, peer advisor.

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