Since the start of 2017, Team Insight have been working closely with our partners, International Service, in order to create and deliver an innovative project, called REACT, which would introduce Goalball into rural communities in Ghana to help raise visual impairment awareness and promote disability rights.
We took fully sighted and visually impaired volunteers from the UK and Ghana and set them the task of not only teaching different communities about the sport and different disabilities, but they were also asked to develop different ways of creating sustainable equipment and resources so that the communities could continue long after the project was over.
As you can see from the video above, the volunteers and communities embraced this challenge whole-heartedly and managed to obliterate every target that had been set.
Overall, REACT – which was the first project of its kind – was a resounding success and we are thrilled that we were a part of it.
We were thrilled to be asked by global insurer AIG UK to run a very special event on the 3rd of November, well I mean it’s not every day that we get to run a session which includes veterans, visually impaired people and some of the top Rugby players in the world!
AIG UK , the Official Insurance Partner of New Zealand Rugby invited five members of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team to experience the sport we love and adore, Goalball. The rugby players wore eyeshades and were pitted against players from AIG’s charity partners of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the Endeavour Fund, as well as AIG employees.
AIG originally came up with the idea of engaging all of their partners in a day of Goalball as they are determined to raise awareness of the power of sport as a tool for recovery and rehabilitation, and as Goalball was originally created in 1946 as a means of assisting in the rehabilitation of visually impaired WWII veterans, they felt it was the perfect fit for the event.
On the day : after the All Blacks had met their new teammates and assessed their opponents, the teams were introduced to the game with a skills and drills session. Everyone threw themselves into the thrilling, (and pretty daunting) experience of competing in a sport designed for people with sight loss, which had all, rugby player or not, on a level playing field as they each wore blindfolds. The teams went head-to-head in an exciting series of matches, with Ardie Savea’s team winning the day and then everyone was given the opportunity to take part in a penalty shootout against our Director, Georgie Bullen and fellow GB player, Dan Roper. Whilst Georgie and Dan managed to defend all of the penalty shots thrown at them by the players from the charity partners, when New Zealand All Black Lima Sopoaga stepped up to challenge Georgie, he managed to send his shot flying passed her and, much to her frustration, Georgie’s return shot went out! New Zealand All Blacks 1 – Georgie 0.
Sarah Davies, Corporate Citizenship and Events Manager at AIG said:
“AIG is proud of its partnerships with the RNIB and Endeavour Fund, as well as its status as Official Insurance Partner of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. We’re delighted to bring together our partnerships to create this unique, money-can’t-buy experience for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, people with sight loss, AIG employees and the All Blacks, celebrating the power of sport when used as a recovery tool for those who are wounded or have lost their sight. I found today truly inspiring and would like to thank Georgie and Team Insight for delivering a truly fun and memorable teambuilding experience for our guests. everyone involved. ”
Georgie Bullen, our Director said:
“We are delighted to be asked by AIG to be involved in this event. Today not only highlights the power that sport possesses in aiding recovery, but also its ability to unite people from all different backgrounds, abilities and disabilities. We are so excited to bring together such a cross section of participants; visually impaired, wounded veterans and members of The All Blacks, and have them learn and compete alongside each other.
“We are always so keen to spread the message of Goalball ; the sport was created after WWII to aid in the rehabilitation of blinded veterans and therefore fits perfectly with AIG’s message of the power of sport.”
Harry Meade, RNIB Corporate Partnerships Manager, said:
“It’s fantastic that through our partnership with AIG we’re able to give people with sight loss the opportunity to enjoy experiences such as playing goalball alongside members of the All Blacks rugby team. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I’m sure will live in memories forever, and we’re extremely grateful to AIG for making it happen.
“It was great to see everyone getting involved and I hope that playing goalball helped the All Blacks to get a sense of what it might be like to live with sight loss and challenge some of the myths and misconceptions encountered by blind and partially sighted people.”
Stuart Croxford, Endeavour Fund Programme Manager at The Royal Foundation, said:
“It’s fantastic for the Endeavour Fund to be invited to yet another great AIG event after the success of the wheelchair rugby last year. With the valued partnership between AIG and the Endeavour Fund we are able to support wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women embraced sporting challenges as a part of their rehabilitation and transition from the armed forces. To see them take on the All Blacks rugby team on a level playing field is an amazing opportunity and I know they are extremely excited about.”
To see more photos of our event, visit our Facebook page at @TeamInsightLTD
During National Inclusion Week, amongst other events, we had the pleasure of introducing the HR Leadership Team of Balfour Beatty into the world of visual impairment. We thoroughly enjoyed working with each member of the team and wanted to share with you an article they produced about the event:
To coincide with National Inclusion week, the HRLT team participated this week in a teambuild session, working with an awarding winning organisation Team Insight who use the Paralympic blind team sport of Goalball, as well as other blindfolded activities, to deliver unique team building and high impact visual impairment awareness training events.
By taking away the sense of sight Team Insight are able to not only improve visual impairment awareness, but their events have a huge impact on the traditional team building areas of developing communication, trust and teamwork, as the team were taken out of their comfort zones and had to work together to overcome the vulnerable situation of losing a sense.
The event was delivered by Georgie Bullen, a Paralympian and current member if the GB Goalball team, who also shared experiences of her visual impairment and focused on helping break down the barriers of ‘discomfort’ that people so often feel with disability. It was a very unique experience which made us all think about the challenges of visual impairment and the importance of improving our communication to overcome these.
“A fun and very powerful session really highlighting how we take our senses for granted and similarly how we can quickly compensate when vision was reduced. Goalball was a great team game, excellently led by Georgie, the Goalball Paralympian. I also never realised my complete inability to run in a straight line without vision!” David Wilson, Group Head of Reward
“It is so easy when you don’t have a disability or impairment to not really consider what life can be like for those who do. The opportunity to put myself ‘in the shoes’ of a visually impaired person really made me reflect. I came away from today with an improved understanding of what it could feel like and some ideas around actions I can take to enable a disabled person feel welcome, comfortable and included. We explored how visually impaired people often have to rely on others for help in some situations. In a world that has become busy and transactional it was a powerful reminder of the need to ‘be human’ – that is to communicate, connect and help each other – and how building trust is a vital part of the equation. A really thought provoking morning, and great to be able to do some work on this as part of National Inclusion Week” Jo Volk, Director of Talent & Development
Recently we had the pleasure of delivering a Team Insight Goalball session at the Blind Veterans UK Brighton centre. We were invited along to be part of the charity’s ‘Project Gemini’ where they had invited visually impaired veterans from America and South Africa to come over to the UK and participate in all sorts of events and activities with their British counterparts.
We were very excited to introduce the veterans to Goalball (and for a few, it was a reintroduction), not only because it is a fantastic sport, but also because Goalball was originally created in 1946 to help in the rehabilitation of blinded World War II veterans, so it felt very special to us to be effectively ‘taking it back to its roots’.
The event kicked off with a few team activities to get the veterans used to their shades and used to working with their new teammates. Being ex-military, this came very naturally and the different teams were very quickly discussing tactics and getting rather competitive!
We discovered almost instantly, that you can take the person out of the military, but you can never take the military out of the person, as there was raucous banter between the teams from the get go and every challenge we put in front of them, they went in to whole heartedly. There was even a veteran who had hearing loss as well as sight loss, and he insisted that, despite not being able to hear the bells in the ball properly, he wanted to participate with his team and simply relied on his teammates to shout ‘DIVE’ whenever the ball was coming.
As soon as we began to play a round robin tournament of Goalball, it was clear that every team wanted to win, with shots getting faster and faster, and celebrations of goals getting bigger and bigger! It all ended up coming down to the last game as the two teams joint top on points faced each other and, after a rather tense game, it was won by one goal!
Claire Hall, Group Manager of Partnerships for Blind Veterans UK, said “It was great to have Team Insight organise a Goalball competition for Blind Veterans UK and some of its corporate supporters and beneficiaries. The experience really heightens your senses and tests your responses, co-ordination and communication. It helps you to appreciate some of the challenges that people living with sight loss must experience on a day to day basis. We had blind veterans from the US, South Africa and UK competing together with corporate supporters and it was a fantastic team building activity and a great participatory event for both sighted and visually impaired players.”
To find out more about Blind Veterans UK you can visit their website here.
We wanted to share a recent article published on LinkedIn by our Director, Georgie Bullen. We felt it was important to share as it described the ‘mixed’ reactions she receives when using a white cane around London.
I’m not a regular cane user, despite being registered as blind, I tend to only use a cane when I’m in an unfamiliar environment or if I’m travelling through places where people are likely to be dragging bags behind them, such as airports-if I am in a place I’m familiar with I will get around very efficiently or if I’m out with friends/family, I will simply grab someone’s arm if I’m struggling.
I make regular trips up to London to meet with existing and potential clients and on each trip I try to schedule around three meetings to make best use of my time. The combination of large crowds, navigating myself through the underground and making my way through unfamiliar places under tight time restrictions means that I need to use a cane.
Any cane user knows that you will experience a complete range of reactions from the general public, but I have never made a conscious effort to note any of them down – so I thought that throughout this last month, I would try to record what kind of receptions the cane received from the commuters of London.
On the Underground:
If someone elderly, pregnant or has young children gets on a train, I will offer them my seat and, generally speaking, when I get on the tube with a cane, I tend to get a tap on the shoulder from a stranger offering me a seat. However, without fail, I have found over the last month that I experience at least two underground journeys a day where the people in the priority seats pretend not to notice me and awkwardly stare down at the floor. (Side note: my visual impairment mainly presents itself by affecting my field of vision, so where you may have almost 180 degrees of field, I have around 15 degrees, but within that field I can see relatively clearly. Meaning I can see people looking away awkwardly). For me, not being offered a seat isn’t generally a problem as I am perfectly capable of standing on the tube, however it does make me concerned to think that this could happen to someone less able who needs to be sat down on the tube for safety reasons. The priority seats are there for that exact reason so if you are sat in one, you should be making a conscious effort to keep an eye out for someone more in need of the seat getting on the tube.
I remember an incident a few years ago which did slightly shock me, I was travelling back from a training camp in the Copper box before the Paralympics in 2012, I got on a train at Stratford during rush hour with my cane in one hand and a large suitcase in the other. As I was getting on, I tripped up over someone’s bag, I didn’t hurt myself but it was clear that I wasn’t managing the combination of obstacles, crowds and my luggage very well. When no one offered to help or give me a seat I just put it down to the fact that it was crowded and they hadn’t noticed my cane. The moment that shocked me was as the train began to empty, and some seats became available near me, I saw two men in the carriage look at me and my cane and then spring into the seats themselves, obviously thinking I couldn’t see them. I was shaken by this as it felt like they thought they were taking advantage of my visual impairment.
I should stress though that generally speaking people are considerate in these situations, the reason that this incident stuck with me was because of how unusual it was.
In the street:
The type of reactions you get when walking along streets in London are completely dependent on whether it is rush hour or not. Two weeks ago I was near St Paul’s underground, it was busy but not rush hour and walking along the pavement could not have been easier! People parted like the Red Sea to make sure I got through easily and when I was on a busy side street with no zebra crossing, a friendly couple saw me waiting to cross the road and offered to help, and even tried to help walk me to my meeting. These simple gestures can be very little effort and yet make such a difference.
However, if I compare this to walking around the streets of London during rush hour, the two experiences could not be more contrasting. I completely understand that people are very busy and are keen to get to their destination, but I end up trying to avoid this time of day like the plague because it turns into some sort of animal stampede where everyone is in such a tight crowd that they don’t have time to spot my cane and simply kick it out of the way.
Generally, I only travel around London one day a week and I am acutely aware that, although I am registered as blind, I have a lot more sight than others, so if I find this experience throws up this many challenges to my fairly limited exposure to London, I can only imagine how difficult it is for blind commuters. I expect that most of you are considerate of others when going about your daily routine, but I hope this still helps people to reflect on their willingness to help someone more in need, as already 4 in 10 visually impaired people feel isolated and avoid leaving their homes, so negative experiences are likely to only make this worse.
It has been a LONG four years waiting since London 2012 for the next Paralympics, but the time has finally come again for the #SuperHumans to take centre stage!
London 2012 forever raised the bar for the Paralympic movement, as it truly did attempt to bring the Paralympics ‘Parallel’ to the Olympics and its legacy continues to resonate as we lead into Rio..
Since the Olympics ended, there has been much discussion as to how successful the Rio Paralympics would be; with fear that the budget cuts and lack of tickets sales would take the Paralympics backwards, rather than forwards. While we will not be able to answer most of these questions until the Games conclude, there is no doubt that records will be broken, medals will be won, and icons will emerge over these two magical weeks.
Although GB is not represented in the Goalball tournament, as the GB Women’s Goalball team narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Rio Paralympics, we will be glued to the schedule/results!
Soak up as inspiring sport as you can over the next two weeks as Tokyo is a long way away! #LetsGoGB
Many people don’t appreciate being visually impaired also means being unable to drive, therefore much of a blind person’s ability to be independent relies on using public transport. This implies a level of assistance may be required from Rail staff; whether it is as simple as reading out what platform a particular train is on, or having to guide someone who is visually impaired through a busy train station, this can be the difference between a VI person feeling confident enough to travel or staying isolated at home. Indeed, complete way of life, including employment, can be affected by their experience of the public transport system.
Govia Thameslink Railway (the train operating company that operates Great Northern, Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express) recently took the decision to attempt to increase their front-line staff’s visual impairment awareness through Team Insight events. This was kicked off with four half day events between the 21st-28th June. Throughout these sessions, over 60 of their front-line staff participated and took up the challenge of putting themselves in the shoes of visually impaired people.
It’s fair to say that each event began with a slight atmosphere of ‘I am not sure I want to be here, I bet it will be just the same old training we’ve all done a hundred times before’, but within minutes we could sense that we’d won them over and by the time we got to the refreshments break in each session, the groups were buzzing with enthusiasm and all sharing stories on the different ways they’ve assisted visually impaired people through their stations or how they’ve been amazed at the independence of VI’s they’ve met.
At the end of each session we gave the option for the participants to fill in feedback forms – 39/44 completed forms gave 5/5’s for both their enjoyment of the day and for how much the event raised their visual impairment awareness.
Below is a brief selection of some of the comments made on the completed feedback forms:
“Thanks for giving me the opportunity to be part of such an ‘eye closing’ event. Learnt a lot about visual impairment”
“Thank you for opening my ears and mouth”
“The whole experience was great, very insightful considering I work with V.I.Ps (Visually Impaired People)”
“Probably the best course I have been on while working in the railway industry”
“I was very relaxed because of the friendly manner of the trainers”
“Made to feel that everyone was important”
Stuart Cheshire, Passenger Service Director said afterwards “This was a truly cracking course that helped our stations staff get first-hand experience of what it is like to be visually impaired. We do our very best to help everyone travel with us, whatever their abilities or impairments”
Not only did the GTR staff actively participate with all of the activities, but during their break, and indeed after the event had finished, many took the opportunity to try on simulation spectacles, try using a white can and asked us many insightful questions on visual impairment. We were delighted with so many assurances that this was one event that would truly influence them moving forward in their working life.
Recently, our Director, Georgie Bullen published an article on LinkedIn about how Visually Impaired people are discriminated against in the workplace and the reasons she believes this happens. We felt it was only right to share the article on here as one of the main reasons Georgie founded Team Insight was to try and educate employers on VI awareness, in the hope that she could help to change the unemployment rate.
Are we blind to the discrimination of visually impaired people in the workplace?
If you were faced with the CV of someone who was visually impaired, would it have any impact on whether you felt you could employ them? Whether it be a conscious belief that blind people are not capable or skilful employees, or whether it is simply the fear of making some sort of ‘Politically Incorrect’ statement that would offend, like ‘See you later’, the simple fact is that visually impaired people are not gaining employment.
In the UK, less than 27% of visually impaired and blind people of working age are in employment. When you compare this to the non-disabled working age population in the UK, where 73.6% are employed, one begins to appreciate the enormity of this issue. Even on comparing the visually impaired population against the general disabled population, there is a huge disparity where 46% are in employment. So why is it that, either consciously or unconsciously, we view visually impaired people as unemployable?
I believe one of the main factors contributing to the unemployment rate, is a general discomfort interacting with visually impaired people; it’s the feared awkwardness of ‘should I go in for a hand shake?’ or should I avoid saying “Nice to see you” for fear of causing offence.
There is no shame in not knowing how to handle a new situation, but we should not let our fear of making a social faux pas affect decisions on whether to give a visually impaired candidate an interview. The best way of dealing with such a situation is to be frank, to ask questions regarding accessibility prior to the interview for example ‘Do you need any special assistance or requirements’ should not offend. (Side note: Visually Impaired people say phrases like ‘See you later’ all the time, do not make an unnatural effort to sensor yourself!)
Another factor that may be a disincentive to employment are the ‘supposed’ costs associated with employing a disabled person: some visually impaired people require support workers or specialised equipment and employers are under the false impression they would bear the bill. However, there are a number of schemes, such as the Government’s ‘Access to Work’ programme, which exist to fund these additional costs.
There are instances where there will be no ‘direct’ discrimination, but visually impaired people will be blocked from even completing an application due to its inaccessible nature. This can be down to issues such as the application itself being unresponsive to programmes which allow visually impaired people to enlarge and modify resources, or it can be down to the format of the application, as there are some which will not allow them to continue if they fail to meet certain criteria such as being able to drive. Yet in many employment situations a visually impaired person would be entitled to use a driver/taxi through access to work and their other skills may be entirely otherwise appropriate to the position. Employers should consider whether their application process in unknowingly discriminating.
It should be acknowledged these appalling employment statistics cannot necessarily be blamed entirely upon the employer some responsibility must also be due to the nature of the impairment and it’s affects upon the individual. Many visually impaired people feel undermined by their disability, self-conscious, and suffer from a lack of confidence which may easily deter them from seeking employment. It is important to understand that visual impairment can be a very isolating disability. To actually apply for a job demands the individual may have initially had to overcome many of the barriers that come with their disability.
Getting a job is a very competitive process for everyone and deciding who to hire is in itself a challenging task, there will often be only minor criteria differentiating the applicants, but when considering the pro’s and cons of each candidate, visual impairment should not automatically come down as a con. Many would argue that visually impaired that visually impaired people make even better employees as they’ve had to work ten-times harder to earn their position and they will be keen to over-achieve in their work to prove their doubters wrong.
Unemployment rates amongst visually impaired people are a major issue and it is time for us to open our eyes to it. As a caring society we should make a conscious effort to improve our short comings.
It’s 2016, which means we are only months away from one of the biggest celebrations of disability sport, the Paralympics!
The London 2012 Games drastically changed perceptions of disability sport, so we can only imagine what lays in store for us with the Rio Paralympics.
Georgie Bullen, our director and member of the GB Women’s Goalball team, has fond memories of competing in the Copper Box during the Paralympics, “we were used to competing in empty sports arenas, so it came as quite a shock to walk out for our first game and have thousands of people willing us on to win”, she says “Not only was the level of support amazing, but it was the first time I really felt we were taken seriously as athletes, until then it had always seemed like people thought ‘Oh bless them, they’re giving it a go’, London really did change attitudes”. Although it is unlikely that Georgie, and the rest of the GB Women’s team, will be at Rio as they are the ‘official Reserves’, Georgie says “I really can’t wait for the Games, it’s just such an inspiring display of disability sport”.
With a little over 200 days until the Rio Paralympics, we are all buzzing with excitement to see what will be achieved by Paralympics GB and we hope you all become inspired to give Paralympic sport a go!
On Monday the 12th of October, our Director, Georgie Bullen attended Red Magazine’s ‘Women of the Year Awards’ where she was presented with Red & Clinique’s ‘Smart Woman of the Year 2015’. It was a night of glitz and glamour with stars such as Dame Kelly Holmes, Amelia Fox and Emily Watson attending to show their support for a group of inspirational women.
There were nine awards given out in total for categories ranging from ‘Start up’ to ‘Creative’. The Smart Woman of the Year Award, which Georgie won for her work with Team Insight, was described by Red as being the award which “celebrates an inspiring icon who stands out from any of the award categories. Whether it’s art, politics, fashion, business, charity or more, the award recognises a trailblazer making a difference in the world”. The Smart Woman Award was extra special this year as, for the first time, Red Magazine and Clinique put the final decision of who should win down to a public vote.
Georgie said after winning the award “It is such an honour to win this award, I am still pinching myself! It feels bizarre to be awarded for something that you love doing and is your dream job. I can’t thank Red magazine and Clinique enough for putting our message of visual impairment awareness out there on a National platform”.
You can find Red Magazine’s profile on Georgie and the other award winners here.
You can also read the full interview with Georgie in the current issue of Red.