‘No reason that disability should stop anybody’

A REGISTERED sight-impaired man is among volunteers who have achieved their Indoor Climbing Assistant qualification.

Left to right, Ellis Lockwood, Jay Gregg, Climb instructor Nicky Pledger, Michael Ellis, Rhian Le Page, Mountain Training ICA trainer and assessor Graeme Hill, Climb instructor Chris Harvey, Sophie Veron and Zara Honey. (30956024)
Left to right, Ellis Lockwood, Jay Gregg, Climb instructor Nicky Pledger, Michael Ellis, Rhian Le Page, Mountain Training ICA trainer and assessor Graeme Hill, Climb instructor Chris Harvey, Sophie Veron and Zara Honey. (30956024)

It was the first time the course has been run in the island, with a specialist trainer brought over by charity Climb to run the training and assessment.

It now qualifies the volunteers to support instructors on indoor climbing walls.

‘This is a fantastic achievement for our volunteers,’ says Climb’s senior instructor Chris Harvey.

‘It gives formal recognition to the skills our volunteers have been learnt and use with us, some of them for the last two years.

‘What we do wouldn’t be possible without them, so the opportunity to gain this qualification is also a thank you from Climb.

‘The ICA has been incorporated into our volunteer pathway and the intention is to run the training and assessment each year for those volunteers aged 16 or over.’

One of the volunteers, Michael Ellis, started climbing with Climb in September 2021, following a GP referral to Bailiwick Social Prescribing.

He is registered as severe sight impaired/blind and has autism, but has always been an active and adventurous person.

‘I was pleased at being able to take part in the ICA,’ he said.

‘While there is no reason that disability should stop anybody being able to assist, it feels particularly empowering that other people have their trust in me and that I can prove I can safely assist in others’ climbing.

‘So far in my climbing, I have been grateful to the time and effort put in by a number of other people but it will be good in the future to be able to be one of those volunteering to help and be sure that I am safe to do so.’

He looked at the course outline online beforehand with a screen reader.

‘During the course, I was able to feel any pieces of equipment, knots and so on, as this is how I would recognise them when using them, but I did not feel awkward doing so,’ he said.

‘I was also able to talk through what I would do if it was an environment which is more difficult for me, to ensure that I could still be involved but ensure safety. It was a long day and at lunchtime, I needed to go off by myself with noise-cancelling headphones and just have a break, and this was absolutely fine to do.

‘Overall, I may do things slightly differently but this does not mean that the standards I need to reach are any different – safety is paramount.

‘The fact that I was able to complete this course and meet those same standards just shows that perceived barriers can be broken down and how many possibilities there are.’

He said that climbing had a positive impact on him.

‘I started as a complete beginner, and feel such achievement at so many things that I have been able to do in such a short time and the hopes of what I would like to do next. I know that the environment is safe and I am learning the correct techniques and terminology. I have never felt disability holding me back and have felt a natural affinity to it – and more than anything it is fun and I enjoy it.’

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