The Arsenal Foundation has donated money to Metro Blind Sport, a charity that helps people with impaired vision. Tennis player Joanna Turnbull, 47, from Surrey, reveals how taking up sport has changed her life.
“I was born with bilateral congenital cataracts in both eyes, even though there was no history of it in the family. As a baby I had corrective surgery, which restored some vision, but the techniques of the day resulted in damage to lens of the eyes and I have always been partially sighted.
“I was introduced to Metro Blind Sport in September 2012 by my husband, who is also visually impaired and had recently started playing cricket with the club.
“He said he was going to try the soundbell tennis during the winter months and suggested I try it. I must admit I wasn’t keen on the idea as I hadn’t really had much to do with the world of sight impairment since leaving the partially sighted school system in 1984.
“Although I went to the gym regularly and went swimming I’d never picked up a tennis racket in my life as it seemed pointless not being able to see the ball coming, let alone having any chance of returning it.
“But I thought I’d give it a go and was amazed to find that I actually managed to hit the specially adapted ball and occasionally get it over the net. I’ve played for over two years and have taken part in four tournaments with varying results.
“I was shown how to serve and hold the racket correctly by the coach and also helped by the volunteers from Highgate Tennis Club. As a vision impaired person it’s not always possible to copy actions.
“I’ve not only had to learn the game but learn how to play the game in a way that works for me. Some of the Metro members are LTA- qualified coaches and I’ve found their input invaluable. I’ve made several friends at the sessions, and of course there is always time for a swift half down the local pub after all that running round chasing the ball!
“Metro Blind Sport has allowed me to participate and improve in a sport I would have never considered accessible to me. It’s become part of my weekly routine as much as going to work or to the gym, and it just wouldn’t have been possible.”