Edinburgh launch 'first of its kind' Braille Rugby project
Rugby is truly an inclusive sport played by all shapes and sizes, and in true community spirit, Edinburgh Rugby are taking further steps so that it can also be enjoyed and spectated by all, regardless of your age, gender or disability.
As the capital side faced Bordeaux-Begles in the Challenge Cup this past Friday night, a small section of the 5,432 in attendance – who happened to be visually impaired - were taking in the 16-16 draw via the club’s brand-new Braille Rugby programme.
This ground-breaking project, which has been developed in partnership with BATS and the Royal Blind School, is believed to be the first of its kind and allows those who are visually impaired to follow the match with the help of a braille ‘rugby pitch’ and audio commentary.
Edinburgh Rugby Head of Community, Ruaridh Pye, explains: “The concept is simple but also complex. We have designed and produced a rugby pitch which is printed in braille, while providing an FM radio channelled to BBC Radio Scotland.
“A guide is able move the visually impaired spectator’s fingers across the board to illustrate where the match is in real time. The current group of guides are all Duke of Edinburgh pupils from the city's Trinity Academy, who are using this as an opportunity to build up their voluntary hours, but also vital life and communication skills.
“The spectator can hear and feel the environment, giving him or her an opportunity to maximise their sporting experience.”
As the visually impaired spectators took in the European encounter – which saw Edinburgh share the spoils thanks to a well-taken try from Blair Kinghorn – it was the result of months of hard work taken on by the Edinburgh Rugby community team alongside John Evans of BATS and David Palencia of the Royal Blind School.
“John [Evans] and I met months ago and discussed how the club can open its doors and make rugby more inclusive, as well as ways in which we can ensure the sport is accessible to anyone and everyone, regardless of their age, gender or disability,” continued Pye.
“John has been instrumental in bringing this ‘idea’ to fruition and his connections, ability and determination has brought us to the stage we are currently at.
“And through David [Palencia], with his knowledge and understanding of the visually impaired is a partnership that shows and highlights true community spirit – working together to make things possible for others.
“This evening we had a broad spectrum of visually impaired spectators, from those who are partially sighted to those who have been blind from birth, all enjoying an Edinburgh Rugby match.”
Pye and Edinburgh Rugby are now looking to take the project one step further, allowing it to be utilised by rugby clubs throughout the UK.
He continued: “We are currently in discussions with companies to design and produce a 3D braille rugby pitch, to enhance their experience further and we are keen to explore funding opportunities, roll out the concept and hear from anyone interested in being part of this unique project.”