My First Tennis Tournament

I’m not long back from attending my first official tennis tournament down in Dublin.

Back in May 2016, i took part in visually impaired tennis at May fest and loved it. I happened to mention that it would be cool if it came to Northern Ireland, but thought nothing more about it. Eventually though, through

<a href=”http://www.dsni.co.uk”>Disability Sports NI</a>

And

<a href=”http://www.winsortennis.co.uk”>The Winsor tennis club</a>

Becoming involved, it became a reality. Basically, it is played like normal tennis, only the ball is bigger than normal and spongy. Inside the ball, is a smaller ball with ball bearings in it so that we can hear where the ball bounces. If you are a B1 which is no sight up to light perception i think, you play on half a normal courte and you are allowed up to 3 bounces to hit the ball after it has been served to you. If you are a B2 or B3, you play on a 3 quarter length courte and are allowed up to two bounces before hitting the ball after it is served to you. Otherwise the rules are exactly the same for normal play.

I have been playing the tennis now since about May time and i love it. I don’t always return the ball after a serve, and sometimes i forget to move for the ball, but otherwise i really do love it. It is the type of sport you would never get bored of as once you start playing, you just get in to the zone and it flies in.

On Sunday past, about 12 of us all headed down to Dublin to play the Dublin Visually impaired tennis team in a friendly tournament. We headed down to the <a href=”http://www.shankilltennisclub.com”>Shankill tennis club</a>

In Dublin. We arrived around half 12 or so and were greeted by the coaches and volunteers. We were provided with some tea and sandwiches which was a lovely welcome.

We then headed off to where the actual courtes were. We would be playing on an indoor courte which was a new experience for us as there are only two indoor tennis courtes here so we played on an outside courte. Apparently, Shankill have about 7 indoor courtes and 3 outdorr courtes plus a club house, so it is massive. Before we went on to the outdoor courte, we had to change our shoes as stones and things can scratch the surface of the courte. Once that was taken care of, we headed on to the courte. The courte felt like very hard tarmac but it was super clean and had a springy feel to it. It felt very nice under foot. Because a few of the Dublin team were unavailable through injury and illness, there were 5 chairs sitting along the side of the courte so that two people could play a game at a time and then we swaped over to play someone else.

We started by doing our warm up which consisted of jogging on the spot, running with our knees high and running as fast as we could whilst still running on the spot. We then had to put our hands behind us and try to hit our hands with our heels before running and rotating our shoulders back and forward. After thaat, we all gathered round to introduce ourselves and explain what catigory we were in and when we started playing tennis. It was then on to the excitement of playing a match.

We played 4 games altogether and were delighted to find out that we had won the tournament against Dublin. At the end of each game, each player had to shake hands with their fello player and say “well played”.

The time absolutely flew in and i could have kept playing. It was then back to the club house for some well deserved refreshments and to thank the Shankill club and players for hosting us. I really did have a ball and the bus back was full of craic about how we did.

Our next tournament will be in January back in Dublin. I am looking forward to it already!

I would like to thank the coaches at Winsor for coaching us so far and am looking forward to resumming play after Christmas.


Research On Taxi Experiences:Northern Ireland

I got this in an email and thought people might be interested in this if you live in Northern Ireland.

Research on taxi experiences: Northern Ireland

The Department of the Environment (DOE) has appointed Integrated
Transport Planning Ltd (ITP) to undertake a review of accessible taxi
services in Northern Ireland and to work with the taxi industry to
explore options for improving the accessibility of their services.

To inform this work the ITP research team wants to understand the
experiences and views of people who are disabled or who experience
mobility difficulties. ITP has therefore designed a survey to
explore:
• How and when people use taxis
• Any difficulties experienced when using taxis
• People’s views on how barriers to using taxis could be overcome
The survey is relevant to current taxis users; as well as people who
experience difficulties when trying to use taxis, and people who
choose not to use taxis because of this. As part of the research ITP
would welcome views from you. To have your say, go to
http://www.taxiusersurveyni.co.uk
to complete the survey online. If you
would prefer to complete the survey over the telephone then call ITP
on
0115 988 6905. A research team member will then call you back to ask
you the questions at a convenient time for you.
As a thank you for taking part, ITP is offering respondents the
opportunity to enter a prize draw for £150 of high street shopping
vouchers.


Two Talks To Two Schools

Today and yesterday i was doing two talks to two schools. It was great. The first was
Carninny primary school
Where the fair was back in November, and the second was a school in Ballymoney.

Carninny

My rehab worker had rang me last week to see if i would do a talk to his sons P1 class. Of course i said yes. I rang our fundraising branch organiser as i was running out of badges which i give to the kids. I think they say “i’m a guidedog hero” or something. I like each kid to get something though when i do a talk. I got another 30 badges so that was good.

So my rehab worker dropped his son off before going and getting me. My rehab worker talked a bit about what his job was and i had braught my cane to show them. I then talked a bit about Ushi and what she did. We explained about how much it cost for me to get a dog and used the 50P as what a bar of chocolate costs.

I explained that Ushi learning to be a guidedog meant she had to go to school then bigger school when she knew a bit about how to guide.

We then got them to ask questions. One little boy asked me how ushi helped me see. I explained that Ushi was like their mum or dad holding their hand. She took me round things that were on the pavement. I explained that some people thought the dog crossed the road but i had to be the mum or dad and tell her when to cross. I explained that Ushi’s harness was like her coat and she only wore it when we were going out.

Another kid asked the same question so to explain it my rehab worker got up and closed his eyes. He then walked into a couple of the kids chairs. He then took my cane and showed them how he didn’t hit the chair that time. They seem to understand that.

I explained to always ask when wanting to pet a guidedog and that they can’t have human food as it would make them very sick.

I think it was pets after that. I can’t remember any questions anyway lol. They all surrounded her basically. Ushi of course loved every minute, but one little kid fell on his bum because Ushi was wagging so hard lol.

I then gave them all badges and their teacher a copy of the braille alphabet as the kids like to learn how i read.

We then had a bit of a fiasko as i didn’t remember putting my cane away after showing it to the kids. I had put it away though so that wasn’t too bad.

The P 6 teacher then came down to ask the kids what they had learnt before getting his class settled. (We only found out the day before that we were doing it as the kids in that class wanted to fundraise for us).

This was a much smaller class. We were going to just do where we talked before questions, but we launched straight into the questions.

The first question took me by surprise really. A little girl asked “can we visit the care place?”. I thought she meant the guidedogs office up in Belfast and was all ready to say yes when my rehab worker whispered that that wasn’t what she meant. She had thought that we lived in a carehome or something but i said i lived with my family just like they did.

After that awkward question, we got onto more things like what things i found difficult since i couldn’t see. They had written out instructions for making a cup of tea, and i explained that i first of all filled the cup with the amount of cold water first to make sure i could carry it before it was hot. I would then put that cup into the kettle and that way there were less chance of scalds. I then said i couldn’t really just reach out and grab the cup-i’d have to find it first. We said that there was liquid level indicators that beeped to let you know when the cup was full.

I said that cooking was a chalenge and that i could cook but hadn’t done it in about 4 years so am probably a bit rusty. We got them to describe what would be dangerous about cooking if you couldn’t see.

We then talked a bit about how much a guidedog costs, why there was no age limmit any more, why it was lowered, and some ideas about fundraising. Ushi was then taken round each student.

We talked about the
Sponsor a puppy scheme
The class having a readathon, a non uniform day and we even talked about bringing the exhibition vehicle down and having a few more guide dog owners there too.

That was basically it and we were taken to the staffroom for some tea.

It was a great talk to both the classes and the P6s seem pritty keen to do something for us which would be brilliant. I hate asking for money but it’s a charity so you have to bring it up at some point.

Balnamore Primary school

This school was in Ballymoney. Orrigionally the classroom assistant had asked us to be there for half 9 but thankfully the teacher said that that would be too early and she would do the talk at half 10 instead.

When we got out of the car a teacher came up and said to us “Would you mind talking in the hall?”. We didn’t know what she meant but then she informed us that the school had had a non uniform day last week and all the children were so excited to hear that a guide dog was coming so could we talk to the whole school. We explained that we only came with badges for the little P1 and 2s, but the teacher said that was okay. The branch organiser said to me that she was a bit annoyed. It would have been nice to be told before today but oh well.

We went in and got settled in the hall while all the kids came in. We were wondering how we could make it interesting for all so what we did first was get the little ones to wear a blind fold and pick something up to see what was in there. They all enjoyed it and everyone in the school wanted to do that bit.

The papers were there and the teachers were taking photos too.

We talked about what a guide dog did, how she helped me, how it was trained and the fact she couldn’t have have any human food etc.

There wasn’t time for any questions unfortunately but we did get more pictures with the little kids. They couldn’t really pet ushi but some of them managed a sneaky one lol. Slightly encouraged by a wagging Ushi tail lol. One little kid whispered to me “i like your dog”. I said i liked her too.

The kids had held a non uniform day as i mentioned earlier. The P7s also held a bookmark and card sale and we were presented with a cheque for…£205! I thought this was brilliant! Thank you everyone!

I wasn’t as keen on this school but that could have been because we were thrown in at the deep end. I was pleased with the donation though!

After that, we went to the branch organisers mums house. We sat and had a chat to her mum who is a very nice woman and then we took Ushi out into her garden to run about. I forgot to bring her whistle with me outside but Ushi ran quite a bit. We didn’t let her go too far as the woman didn’t have back gates and she was right in the middle of a farm so i don’t think that would have been good letting her run through the farm.

We went back into chill after that.

The woman has invited us back again and totally loved Ushi.

When we were leaving, the branch organiser roled down the window to see a horse. Ushi didn’t know what to think when it decided to stick its head in through the window lol.

It was a great couple of days. I’ve another talk on Monday night and am off to Belfast tomorrow.

So it’s been quite a busy week! Thank you again both schools!