Call comes from young people with sight impairment
Young people with visual impairments are backing a call by RNIB Scotland to make sport and leisure facilities more inclusive for people with disabilities.
In its manifesto for the 5 May local authority elections, the charity is urging councils to provide more awareness training to staff, and ensure their facilities are fully accessible.
"In terms of sport, there is a long way to go before visually impaired people have the same opportunities as everyone else," says Abdul Eneser (19), a law student at Strathclyde University who is severely sight impaired.
"I've had experiences where I went to a gym and they said 'Oh, where's your carer?' and I was, like, 'Sorry?', and they said, 'We don't allow people with disabilities in without a carer'. Do I really want to be in a place where they discriminate against me because I'm visually impaired?
"At the end of the day, it has to be about awareness. There isn't a lot of us, so staff can be really surprised when they see someone with a cane or a guide-dog coming into their centre. But we wouldn't be doing something we didn't feel confident doing. It's just about approaching the person and talking to us."
Neil Atkinson (23) from Livingston was diagnosed with the condition Stargardt’s macula dystrophy at the age of eight. He agrees that staff awareness is key to making facilities more inclusive.
"Everyone with a visual impairment I've come across knows how to ask questions and how to explain the things they need for support, as long as the person who's receiving this information is approachable and understanding," he says. "It can make just one or two people feel a million times better, and that can make a world of difference to one or two lives.
"Even just tiny adaptations can make it so much more accessible to people with a visual impairment. You have to have people who are welcoming at the door, people who are trained to look out for anyone who might look less confident, and be able to ask them if they're ok.
"For me, there's nothing more anxiety-inducing than going into a new place and having to find who to talk to and where I need to go. Websites and Facebook pages that give you directions if you're coming into play or go to a gym help a lot. Preparation can alleviate the anxiety of going into a new place."
RNIB Scotland's 'Local Vision' manifesto is calling on councils to ensure all staff have sight loss awareness training and that facilities are fully inclusive in terms of layout and how they are promoted.
Its director James Adams said: "People with sight loss can be just as interested in sport and keeping fit as anyone else. So it's not unreasonable for them to expect that council-run facilities make what is often only a small extra effort to accommodate them as much as any other resident of the area. RNIB is happy to advise and help on this."