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Active Vision 4 Months On

4 months on from the start of Active Vision, we caught up with Tees Vision Connect to find out how the Active Vision project has impacted their health and wellbeing. Active Vision is Tees Active’s fully funded project that provides free physical activities for the visually impaired members of Tees Vision Connect to help them get active again after the COVID-19 pandemic and numerous lockdowns.

Mick Riley, Chair of Tees Vision Connect, discussed with us how beneficial indoor bowling has been for their physical and mental health since beginning in October 2021. “I came out of COVID with massive mobility issues, 200m and I was goosed but because of Active Vision I’m now walking up and down the bowls rink once a week for 2 hours. We walk on average between 1.5km and 2km each time we come!”

The Active Vision project has not only improved the health of Tees Vision Connects members, but it’s also helped attract new members to this fantastic group of inspirational people. Alex is the newest addition to the Tees Vision Connect family and he was generous enough to share his story with us. “My wife Janet found out about Tees Vision Connect and the Active Vision project. I was nervous coming along to my first session, since the pandemic hit I’ve stayed inside other than when taking the dog for a walk. I had cabined up; I was staying inside most of the time and it effected my health. I’m enjoying playing indoor bowls, I’ve made some great friends and have even bought myself a set of bowls. I feel healthier and happier in myself, and my confidence has grown since coming to Active Vision sessions, I can even jump on a bus by myself now.”

It’s fantastic to hear the positive impact that the Active Vision project has had not only on Alex’s life, but his wives too. Janet told us “I can’t thank Tees Active enough for everything they’ve done for us. Since coming to Active Vision sessions Alex’s energy and mood have increased a lot, which has done us both good. Before he started coming here, Alex didn’t interact with anybody and now he’s met a lot of nice people and it’s really brought him out of his shell. Alex taking part in these sessions means that I’ve got my own space and time back too, I can continue to keep active with my Activ8 Health & Fitness membership.”

Tees Vision Connect brings visually impaired people from around the North East together and provides a family unit where no matter how visually impaired you are, you are not alone. Dealing with sight loss is already a challenge in itself, but the limited access to activities and emotional support often leads those with visual impairments to become incredibly isolated.

“As a non-blind person, I was super confident, would go anywhere and deal with anything but when I lost my sight, I spent about 18 months indoors and went nowhere. I know what it’s like to come out of that dark place, so I set this organisation up to help others and the support we’ve had from Tees Active has been fantastic!” Mick, Tees Vision Connect Chairman.

Tees Vision Connect was created by Mick Riley and Denise Ross as a way to help the visually impaired become less isolated. Denise told us that she has done more since she lost her sight, than she did when she could see. “Although I lost my sight almost 50 years ago, I’ve done so much since. I took part in the Seoul Paralympic Games in 1988 where I won Gold in Women’s Discus and Silver in Women’s Shot Put! I volunteer and chair for many companies and charities throughout Teesside, helping with many disabilities not just for those who are visually impaired. I’m also a member of Activ8 Health & Fitness and attend the gym regularly! I thought to myself, losing my sight is not going to get me down. I’m going to be positive and go forward and that’s what I do!”

Tees Vision Connect member Sue is from Sunderland and travels via public transport to Tees Active’s Active Vision sessions once a month. “I like coming down here, Sunderland doesn’t offer events like this where groups like ourselves can go out and do activities. The last few years have been very difficult and it’s great to be able to get active again with a great group of people. This group shows people that yeah you might be losing your eyesight or have no eyesight, but you can still have a life.”

If you or someone you know is visually impaired and would benefit from taking part in Active Vision you can turn up to an Active Vision indoor bowls session on a Thursday 13:00 – 14:00 at Thornaby Pavilion. For more information on Tees Vision Connect, contact Mick directly on Facebook here or via email at mickriley5@gmail.com.

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