Volunteers guide blind visitors around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
PUBLISHED: 18:57 13 March 2016 | UPDATED: 18:57 13 March 2016
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is officially open to people of all physical capabilities with a team of volunteers making sure everyone can enjoy the iconic park.
Volunteers have been undertaking sighted guide training to provide tours for people of all levels of visual impairment.
The training was held to coincide with Disabled Access Day yesterday, when volunteers were on hand to help visitors around.
“It’s really important for us to be accessible to everyone,” said volunteer manager, Adele Lefebvre.
“The park is open to everyone and we want everyone, regardless of background or anything else, to come and enjoy it.”
To gain a better understanding of the challenges faced, both by the visually-impaired and also the volunteer guides, I joined a group at one of their special training sessions last week.
Kitted out with a thick blindfold, Adele guided me on a route down by the canal from the The Podium bar and kitchen, near to the ArcelorMittal Orbit.
Nervously trudging along at first, the simple task of walking – something I think I’ve just about mastered over the last 25 years – suddenly felt strangely unnatural.
But holding onto Adele’s elbow, which allows any movement to be felt, I was able to know exactly when we were turning, slowing down or speeding up – although the continual dialogue certainly helped as well.
The challenge of getting around without sight was a lot harder than I’d imagined though and emphasised how important the volunteers’ work will be.
Adele said: “[Sight guiding] is also a really good skill to have in your normal life, in case you need to help someone at a bus stop or a train station for example – it’s good to know how you can be of benefit.”
From mobility scooters and manual wheelchairs to being transported on the golf buggy or sighted guides, all the park’s facilities can be hired out from the park’s information point, opposite the Aquatics Centre, between 10am and 3pm.
Catherine Ellis, 64, from Lewisham, started volunteering at the park as a Games Maker during the Olympics and will be one of the team guiding visually-impaired visitors around the park.
She said: “Once you gain confidence in the person taking you around it becomes quite easy, although we still had to talk everything through together quite a lot.”
Visit queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk or call 0800 0722 110 for more information or to book a sight guided tour.
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