“Rail is about getting from A to opportunity. For me that opportunity is blind cricket.”
Avanti West Coast's Theresa Robberts explains how rail has enabled her to make history representing England in blind cricket.
Wednesday 30 August 2023
Avanti West Coast Social Value and Accessibility Manager, Theresa Robberts, explains how rail has enabled her to make history representing England in the International Blind Sport (IBSA) World Games in Birmingham.
This year’s IBSA World Games is a historical event because it is the first time an international tournament for all-female blind cricket teams is taking place.
It is also the first time in any disability cricket that an all-female team has been put together in England and I feel very privileged to be a part of it. We’ve been training and developing the squad of female blind cricketers for seven years and these games will give us the first opportunity to compete against another team.
I represent Surrey Visually Impaired County Cricket Club and most of us teammates are in the international squad. In county cricket, we almost never have a weekend in the summer when we don’t have a match – whether it’s Plymouth, Brighton, Yorkshire or Manchester, we play home and away. We travel an incredible amount. If there were no trains, there would be no cricket for us because, obviously, we’re not allowed to drive.
Having a disability can isolate you. For many of those who play cricket, training and competing in matches is the only time they get out. The railway makes it possible for people to link back into their communities. For us players that’s the blind cricket community.
Many women come from across the UK to get to England’s training camp at Bracknell – relying on rail travel to do this. As blind passengers we often book passenger assist. – a service for customers who need additional support when travelling – from help with reservations to on hand assistance on the day of travel, and help getting on and off trains. This means we don’t have to worry about our journey. Having assistance provides reassurance and can prevent you from being stressed when arriving at the cricket pitch.
"The railway makes it possible for people to link back into their communities. For us players that’s the blind cricket community."
Rail isn’t about getting from A to B. It’s about getting from A to opportunity – whatever that may be. For me, that opportunity is blind cricket. So, rail connectivity is special.
My guide dog, Kaz makes sure I’m safe and because of that I have the confidence to do things. A train journey is almost like a guide dog. A train will take me A to B, so I don’t need to worry about how I’m going from one place to another and makes me feel confident I can do other things.
Having a disability can isolate you. For many of those who play cricket, training and competing in matches is the only time they get out. Cricket becomes their family. The railway makes it possible for people to link back into their communities. For us players that’s the blind cricket community.
I grew up playing cricket in the back yard with my brothers. As a little girl you dream but it was only when I started playing blind cricket in 2007 that I immediately started to think my dream of playing the sport at an international level may one day become a reality.
In the UK there are between 30 and 40 sports available to play as a blind person. Sport can support mental health, keep you active, introduce you to people, help against isolation, and enable you to get out and about, which can grow your confidence. Rail travel makes these opportunities possible, and, most importantly, accessible to everyone.
Main image: Theresa Robberts, Avanti West Coast Social Value and Accessibility Manager, representing England at the IBSA World Games, with her guide dog, Kaz.
Images (top to bottom): Theresa with trophy she achieved playing as part of Surrey Visually Impaired County Cricket Club; Theresa with her guide dog, Kaz; Theresa representing England's Blind Cricket Team at the IBSA World Games in Birmingham.