This week I discovered blind dressage rider Verity Smith who is faced with the ludicrously unfair task of competing in a blindfold.
Somebody who embodies humour, grace, talent and determination, Verity is not only a top international Dressage star, but also an author and musician. Verity became blind at the age of 8, and always found horses to be her escape from blindness.
“They are the one thing in my life that takes me out of being blind.”
As a rider myself, riding for Brighton University in the BUCS league, I can totally understand why she feels like that. When you ride a horse you become entwined in their world, everything else fades away. The connection can be amazing, communicating completely through feel to your horse. Why then, has the Paralympics taken this feeling away from Verity? According to their controversial regulation, the only way she can compete in the games is by wearing a blindfold. This surely will draw her mind only to her blindness, rather than empowering her to achieve what she is more than capable of achieving despite her disability.
What the Paralympics stands for is equal opportunity for disabled athletes and their website states this:
“To ensure competition is fair and equal, all Paralympic sports have a system in place which ensures that winning is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus, the same factors that account for success in sport for able bodied athletes.
This process is called classification and its purpose is to minimise the impact of impairments on the activity.”
What a paradox this is. In this case their regulation amplifies her disability due to the complete blackout she is forced to endure, which maximises the impact of impairment of activity. The tiny bit of light that Verity has is of huge importance to her. The wearing of the blindfold not only completely humiliates and upsets her, but turns her from being the incredible athlete she is into a total beginner.
Despite the odds, her determination is mind-blowing. She won’t let this rule blindfold her ambition, and has started a campaign to #BeatTheBlindfold which has gained huge momentum, with her petition reaching over 1000 signatures, we urge everyone to sign. There are other ways you can help, by liking her Facebook page and following her website and Twitter for updates. Alternatively, there’s the visual campaign: you can take a photo of you in a blindfold doing your job or any task or hobby. Upload it with the hashtag: #BeatTheBlindfold, to show how ridiculous this rule is to social media. You can share the video which captures her story. Verity, if you’re reading this, Brighton University Equestrian team are on your side, as are many students of Brighton and will be cheering you on as you take gold at Rio.
For more info go to Change.Org.
Verity’s wit and sheer determination is an inspiration to us all when faced with challenging circumstances. When things are unjust and need rectifying, we must fight for what we believe in and remember:
“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.
Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
– Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
By Charlie O’Connor