How can you help your climbing gym be a more inviting and safe space for climbers with a visual impairment?
These simple tips will help you to make your facility as accessible as possible to visually impaired climbers.
1. Help with registration
Did you know that most phones and tablets have really good accessibility built in? Most visually impaired people will have their phones set up so they can use them using accessibility tools. It doesn’t mean they will be able to use a centre iPad to get set up as the accessibility on these is often disabled. The easy solution is to ask them if they need any help and go through it with them if you need to. You could also provide a link ahead of time so climbers register at home before visiting the centre.
If your registration process involves watching a video or looking at photos, think about whether it will work as well with somebody that can’t see. If you are not sure, think about other ways to convey the information. Maybe through a tour of the centre or a conversation.
A well lit centre may help people with a visual impairment make best use of any remaining vision they have. If a light bulb breaks, try to fix it as soon as you can. If it’s possible to put a few extra lights up around the centre then go for it.
A lot of blind people have the ability to see the difference between light and dark. Good use of colour contrast can be a huge help. When boulder matting, the floor and the climbing walls are all the same colour for some people they can look as one which can make getting around safely especially challenging.
When there is a colour contrast between these things it can make a huge difference. It can be the difference between knowing you are about to step off a big boulder mat or falling off the edge of one.
If the floor of your centre is the same colour as the boulder matting consider repainting the floor or adding a contrasting strip around the edges of the matting.
4. Loud music
No visually impaired person wants to be a fun sponge, but please turn the music down a bit if asked. If it’s too loud the climber wont be able to hear the instructions they are given.
5. Keep it tidy
Make sure the floor is clear of any unnecessary items on the floor. Particularly pathways or walk ways. Bouldering areas are often fine as climbers usually know to keep their kit off the bouldering mat but on roped walls there are often hazards. Weight bags area common one. If possible make them stand out by having some that that are a totally different colour to the floor or keep them somewhere out of the way.
6. Allow full and free access to carers/guides
Most leisure facilities allow carers to access facilities with a disabled person free of charge but this is the exception rather than the rule in climbing. By offering free access to sighted guides or carers it is easier for visually impaired climbers to find guides and the job they do is well worth it. A carer will help people out of the building in an emergency, find toilets and ensure the person they are supporting is always in a safe position while at the centre.