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Blind Baggies footballer and Paralympian provides lockdown exercise inspiration

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Blind Baggies footballer and Paralympian provides lockdown exercise inspiration

An England and West Bromwich Albion blind footballer, who is also a dual Paralympian, is providing exercise advice and inspiration for disabled people during lockdown.

Sutton Coldfield-based Darren Harris has teamed up with the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) Include Me WM programme to make exercise videos to encourage disabled people to remain active during lockdown.

Many people with disabilities don’t have access to outdoor exercise space and have to stay indoors, and for many, their usual exercise classes with others are not an option.

The videos are being shared on the newly created Include Me WM Facebook page which is currently focused on sharing ideas to help disabled people remain active while confined to home.

Originally from Wolverhampton, Darren has 162 international caps, making him England’s most capped and decorated blind footballer.

As well as being a Paralympian footballer, he has represented Great Britain in judo, which is played the same as non-disabled judo, except competitors start gripped together, as opposed to the off-grip technique.

In addition to his sporting achievements, he is a bestselling author, motivational speaker and transformational coach.

As a baby, Darren was diagnosed with the eye condition bilateral retinoblastoma and his sight deteriorated until he became completely blind in his 20s.

Darren said:

Lots of disabled people are currently having to self-isolate and you need both confidence and motivation to be active, especially if you’re on your own. I’m hoping everyone, not just disabled people, will find my videos easy to use and will help them keep active while the country is under lockdown. You don’t need expensive gym equipment or a lot of space to follow the videos, just the desire to start moving a bit more each day.”

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said:

Include Me WM was set up to create a more inclusive environment and a better understanding of disabled people’s needs. The creation of this Facebook page is an example of how the programme can respond to the needs of disabled people and those with long term health conditions. We all need to keep fit and healthy right now and Darren’s contribution to the Include Me WM page will help encourage disabled people to participate in regular exercise despite many facing the challenge of self-isolation or limited contact with others.”

The Facebook page shares exercise videos fronted by people who have a variety of disabilities, using everyday items, such as chairs, rather than specialist equipment.

There are also links to online help and guidance from organisations such as Midland Mencap and Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the WMCA portfolio holder for wellbeing and leader of Warwickshire County Council, said:

Include Me WM aims to make the West Midlands an exemplar region for engaging disabled people and people with long term health conditions to be physically active. The new Facebook page is an example of how the programme is succeeding in doing this. As well as videos from people like Darren, which encourage disabled people to exercise, it will also provide a safe and positive place for people to chat, helping to reduce the loneliness of self-isolation and limited social contact.”

The WMCA is supporting Sport England’s new campaign #StayInWorkOut which encourages people to be physically active while the country deals with the coronavirus outbreak.

For further details visit the Include Me West Midlands group on Facebook.   

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