Braille banners will encourage blind London Marathon runners

Braille texts are used to encourage blind and partially sighted runners to take part in Sunday’s London Marathon.

35 runners with guides are expected to take part in the event, while hundreds others will raise money for charities that support the blind and visually impaired.

Banners with encouraging messages in Braille will line miles 20 and 23 of the course, which are often points where competitors need a boost to keep going.

Guides can direct their runners to the left side of the course so they can feel the braille banner as they pass the barriers.

Braille enables blind and partially sighted people to read and write through touch, using combinations of raised dots that represent the alphabet, words, punctuation marks, and numbers.

The tactile code was developed by Louis Braille in the 1820s when he was a student at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris.

Sam Fox, 52, from Benfleet, Essex, became totally blind eight years ago and is running the TCS London Marathon this year on behalf of the Guide Dogs charity.

“I can’t say enough how grateful I am that an event the size of the London Marathon is remembering our community,” she said.

“When I heard about the braille banners, it brought tears to my eyes, I was so touched.

“The creation of these banners has set a gold standard and more people and businesses should follow suit as it can make a huge difference for the blind but rarely sees.

“I became totally blind eight years ago and my freedom was given to me by my guide dog, Winston, but I find that blind and partially sighted people are not given much thought. For example, guide dog owners are often denied access to spaces.

“I can’t express how grateful I am and I can’t wait to feel them on the big day.”

The banners were created in collaboration between sports retailers Wiggle and New Balance and the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC).

Mile 20 on Poplar High Street often marks the point where runners need to push themselves beyond their longest training run.

At Mile 23, Lower Thames Street, RSBC opened its Life Without Limits Center earlier this year to help blind and partially sighted children and their families develop the skills, confidence and resilience to cope with the challenges that they may face.

Shalni Sood, Director of Philanthropy at RSBC, said: “It’s great to see a more inclusive and welcoming approach – the banners are a great example of that.

“We would like to encourage more organizations in the sports industry to actively support the participation of people with visual impairments. We hope to see more of this in the future.”

The work of the RSBC was supported by a donation from Wiggle, which will help provide emotional and practical support to two families for a full year.

Wiggle Chief Executive Huw Crwys-Williams said they hope the braille banners will “create a special moment for visually impaired runners as they take on this amazing challenge”.

Samantha Matthews, Senior Marketing Manager UK and Ireland at New Balance said: “Everyone should feel included on race day and that is why we are delighted to support the visually impaired runners at this year’s TCS London Marathon by providing accessible motivation and support from the toughest prepare miles of the race.”

– To sponsor Sam Fox, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/samfoxmarathon

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Mike Fahey

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