REACT volunteer, Richard Wheatley

Richard Wheatley (23) has been severely visually impaired since the age of 5. He explains, “because I’ve been visually impaired for so long, I don’t make adjustments in my day-to-day life, I just go ahead and figure out how I can do what I want to do.”

At school, he started playing goalball, and eventually competed internationally before studying Theoretical Physics at Lancaster University. After finishing his degree, Richard took time to travel while building up his CV. He says: “When I heard about REACT, I remember thinking, ‘this seems to be built for me!'”

Richard worked with his team of volunteers to create bespoke goalball equipment that would enable new teams to train, and gave talks at schools and on local radio stations to promote the rights of people with disabilities. 

For Richard, the most impactful element of the project was that it didn't just include people with visual impairments, but ensured that they comprised half the volunteer group. “Because I’m visibly visually impaired, people wanted to talk to me about disability. Just by being there, I was demonstrating that their negative ideas about disability were not accurate, and I think it was those conversations that helped make a big difference.”  

REACT volunteer Lucy Ashton

 

Lucy Ashton (22) was nervous about one key aspect of the REACT project. “I’ve never played goalball before, so I was nervous about trying it for the first time. But it was really fun, and great to share that knowledge with other people in the community.”

“For a fully sighted person, goalball really helps you understand what its like to be blind or visually impaired because you have to rely on your other senses.” For Lucy, this is something that she’s used to: her visual impairment means that she has significant gaps in her vision. She explains: “it effects every moment of my waking life.”

Lucy says that being able to share inclusive games with children and young people was the highlight of REACT. Together, the team not only coached goalball, but also developed and shared new inclusive games.

She says, “inclusive sport is something so simple, but it’s so effective. REACT opened the communities’ eyes to everything that visually impaired people can achieve.”

 

REACT volunteer Nikita Slate

Nikita Slate (19) suffers from ocular albinism, which causes her to struggle with detail and long distance vision. Before REACT, Nikita was volunteering as a befriender at Age UK, and working in a supermarket before going on to study Economics at Warwick University in September.

She explains, “Throughout my life, I’ve always had support from my parents, friends and school, which has meant that my disability has never held me back. So it makes me sad to know that for a lot of people in Ghana, that support isn’t in place.”

Nikita worked with the team to manage the projects’ finances, and to identify schools that the team could visit to talk to students about disability rights. She also spoke directly to change-makers in the community, to gain support for the project.

After university, Nikita is hoping to do further volunteering. She explains: “Doing REACT has changed my life. I’ve always been passionate about disability rights. But now I have the confidence and leadership skills to go out and actually make a difference.”