Forth Valley Sensory Centre in partnership with The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety is launching a new personal safety class with a difference; the instructor, David Black, is registered blind.

Classes begin on May 5th and will be weekly at 2pm.

The aim is to provide a class where people who have a sensory impairment or who would otherwise feel afraid to join a martial arts class can learn important tips and techniques to protect themselves, in a safe environment. Sadly, 47 per cent of disabled people in Scotland have experienced hate crime because of their disability. 73 per cent reported being frightened or attacked, experiencing verbal abuse and intimidation*.

In response to the physical and verbal attacks he has suffered as a blind person while out on the streets, David has been studying Aikido and Jujitsu for nine years. Wanting to pass on some of his skills, he has now completed his registration with the British Martial Arts and Boxing Association following training from The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety; a charity which supports young people, women, ethnic groups and people with disabilities to manage potentially harmful situations.

David commented:
“I like to be independent. I try as much as possible to manage my own travel and I enjoy the fresh air. I memorise all my routes in a ‘mind map’ so I know exactly where I am going at all times. I rely heavily on my cane to let me know about obstacles although I am always apologising to other people when I realise they are there!

“While most people are understanding and helpful, sadly there are also groups who are not. I have been physically attacked and I regularly have people trying to see how blind I am by shouting in my ear or by trying to trip me up. The answer to the question is ‘very blind’ and my cane which is so important to my freedom is also a target to others.

“I wanted to help others like me, people who want a bit more confidence in the streets but who would not want to join a normal martial arts class. This group is about safety, some clever moves to create space, warn off a potential attacker and buy time to get help as needed. It is simple, practical and suitable for all ages.”

David leading the Personal Safety Class tester with Alan Bell. Includes action shots and David with his certificate.

The initial class will be supported by Alan Bell from The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety (ScotCPS), who initially developed the concept for the course, and Michael McAllister another partially sighted instructor trained by SCFPS.

Alan said:
“We work almost exclusively with vulnerable people from all sections of the community and last year we received funding from The Big Lottery’s Investing in Ideas to develop a personal safety course specifically for the blind and visually impaired. Through working with Forth Valley Sensory Centre this has expanded into a course for all sensory impairments.”

The eight week course costs just £20 and entry is on a first come first served basis. There are plans to possibly extend the number of classes based on demand and feedback so register your interest at the Centre on 01324 590 888. Forth Valley Sensory Centre is also a third party reporting point for hate crime. Victims can speak to a member of staff and have incidents reported in anonymity, helping Police to tackle the problem.

Daniel Jones, Equality Engagement Officer, Central Scotland Regional Equality Council (CSREC) added:
“Disability hate crime, and hate crime in general, continues to be under-reported across the Forth Valley area. Many victims feel, for example, that hate crime is something which they just have to tolerate. Hate crime is not something which anyone should have to put up with, and we are working with individuals and communities throughout the Forth Valley to increase their confidence to report hate crime.

“We would encourage everyone who has experienced hate crime, whether as a victim or as a witness, to come forward to report it. In doing so, you can help to ensure that the perpetrator doesn’t get away with it in the future. These classes are a helpful way of increasing the confidence of those with disabilities, and we look forward to seeing the impact they have.”

To sign up, or for more information, contact Martin at the Centre.


*The Disability Rights Commission – Hate Crime Against Disabled People in Scotland Report

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