Collette Kerr from Ballymena, who works as a counsellor, said: “My family have been involved in several different marital arts for quite some time now and I had sat in on and watched my fair share of the kids’ judo classes. But I always thought sport was never for me.
“I hated PE at school as I struggled to keep up due to my visual impairment. One evening last April my family suggested I come along to their Kung Fu classes and I thought why not? I gave it a go, had an absolute ball and started to seriously reconsider my ideas around what sport is and how I could access it and take part.
“My job means I am sitting still at my desk all day long and not using much physical energy. For a person who is visually impaired it can be difficult to find ways to exercise.
“I knew about the VI (visually impaired) Judo group in Coleraine for a while so I thought I’d make contact and ask if they had any spaces for a newbie. I had
absolutely no idea what to expect. Needless to say all my fears and anxieties were totally unfounded. I was met with a gentle, incredibly welcoming group of
“Everyone is an equal and no one person is ‘better’ than the other. There is no time where you are made to feel like you are a burden on anyone or holding
anyone back from their training due to your disability.
“When a person lives with sight loss they can often find their movements are extremely cautious as we are constantly aware of the possibility of bumping in
to something or falling and getting hurt. Judo allows you a wonderful freedom of movement of your own body. You know you can move around the mats
freely, that if you do fall you will do so safely.
“After a while it was suggested I take part in my first competition over in England. Much to my surprise, I won Silver in my category! The judo community is like a big family and I was fielding congratulatory messages left, right and centre.
“Late 2022 held a number of other exciting events and opportunities for me, including training with the Para-Potential squad, and attending the NI Judo
Federation’s Adaptive Judo Festival in Derry/Londonderry.
“In November I was also honoured and delighted to win the Coleraine Sports Council’s Sportsperson with a Disability Award 2022. Being able to go to judo class and being able to fully participate with a few small adjustments, but most importantly understanding and knowledgeable
coaches is just such a wonderful experience. I now also train with a mainstream club based in Ballymoney, who have welcomed several other visually impaired members.
“I can only encourage you to step out of your comfort zone this year and see where it takes you.”
Anyone who is blind, partially sighted, or has experienced sight loss and would like to explore various ways to keep active or try something new, call the RNIB
Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email [email protected]