On Monday 30th November blind international dressage rider Verity Smith is launching a Worldwide campaign against the International Paralympic Committee. Entitled #BeatTheBlindfold she hopes to overturn a controversial new ruling made by them earlier this year.
The ruling, which was only introduced in January, two thirds of the way through the current Paralympic training cycle, singles out only ‘blind’ riders in each mixed disability category and dictates they must wear a blindfold while competing, taking away the limited light they each have and furthering their disability. The rule change has left athletes just months to dramatically change their training and attempt to adopt to the blindfold in order to qualify for the games in time. "I've been training for years and with a year to go they completely change the rules. It's totally unfair" says Verity.
When riding blindfolded Verity can’t ride at beginner level let alone compete. She believes this ruling not only contradicts the essence of the Paralympics, enabling ability within disability, but also puts her and her horse in danger, and challenges her basic human rights.
In addition to this, having represented her country as part of Para Team GB, Verity’s hopes of taking the road to Rio 2016 have been forced into a cul de sac by the ruling of the governing bodies -The International Paralympic committee (IPC) and the International Equestrian Federation (FEI). “Blind riders are being forced to wear a blindfold which is dangerous, humiliating and debilitating as most registered blind people have some residual light and dark’, explains Verity who is registered blind with 10 percent vision.
“Horses have always been my sanctuary from my disability, allowing me to quite literally ride the storm of my blindness. When I ride I am free and afraid of nothing - in the blindfold I am a prisoner frightened of the dark”
Verity is currently competing at abled bodied Prix St George, the highest level ever achieved by a blind rider in Britain and her dream is to one day be part of the Able Bodied Team GB. Her cross platform campaign will be using the hashtags #BeatTheBlindfold and #GetVerityToRio.
As part of the social media campaign, Verity wants users to take a selfie of themselves in a blindfold, post it to social media and encourage others to #BeatTheBlindfold.
A petition to support Verity’s fight has been set up on Change.org.
Verity is asking for support to #BeatTheBlindfold and revive the spirit of the Paralympics which invoke the ideals of courage, determination, inspiration and equality. “The Paralympic aim is to challenge stereotypes and transform attitudes and redefine the boundaries of possibility,” says Verity. “The blindfold removes these ideals. Instead we want to remove the blindfold and allow blind riders to compete using every glimmer of sight they may still have. No one should be handicapped any further - don’t blindfold our dreams.”
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About Verity Smith
Verity is a blind international dressage rider, singer songwriter, author and winner of the Inspirational Guide dog Owner of the Year Award 2014. She believes in advocating the ability in disability and relishes the challenge of defying convention and breaking down boundaries.
Featured in the CNN International world sport ‘Human to Hero’ documentary series.
Featured in Land Rover ‘Can And Will‘ Campaign and was their poster girl at Burghley Horse trials.
Verity’s trainers and mentors are Laura Tomlinson MBE and Olympic gold medalist, and Sandy Phillips Olympic rider and grade 1 listed international judge.