The Royal National College for the Blind

PUBLISHED: 18:39 29 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:09 20 February 2013

The Royal National College for the Blind

The Royal National College for the Blind

The redevelopment of The Royal National College for the Blind has been years (and millions of pounds) in the making. Now the college is opening its magnificent facilities to the people of the county.

The redevelopment of The Royal National College for the Blind has been years (and millions of pounds) in the making. Now the college is opening its magnificent facilities to the people of the county.

When 23-year-old Craig Lunberg lost his sight while serving in Iraq in the spring of 2007 he was determined to rebuild his life. How, where, doing what... he wasn't sure. He was just going to take it day by day. Then he heard about the Beijing Paralympics - and the fact that people who were blind could be world class sportsmen and women, and compete for their country. "I knew that's what I wanted," says Craig. "To be part of a team, to be the best in the game. I wanted to train for the next Olympics. I just had to find my sport."

Craig found football, and last year was accepted as one of the first students at the world's first Football Academy for visually impaired players, launched at Hereford's Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) by Sir Trevor Brooking and GB/England's head coach Tony Larkin.

Soon after RNC created a multi-million pound world-class sports and conferencing centre (called thePoint4), housing both indoor and outdoor international-standard Blind Football pitches. At this unique facility, blind or partially sighted students, from the age of 16 up, have the chance to build football training into their chosen curriculum of studies (the college offers a wide range of vocational and academic courses tailored to suit students' needs and ambitions). It's here Craig has been in training since last autumn and has demonstrated such drive, determination and skill on the pitch that he was been invited to join the national squad when they travel to France for the Blind Football European Championships this summer.

Craig is just one of scores of success stories that come out of RNC each year. At this college - the UK's leading specialist college - students have the opportunity to study for academic qualifications so they can move on to university, or vocational studies (in business, sport, music, art and more) so they can move into the world of work. Crucial to their studies is an individually tailored programme of independent living and mobility skills and enrichment activities, so students who have had to adapt quickly to sight loss, or who have never lived away from home, can learn what they need to live independently. Opportunities to enjoy sport - still shockingly limited for people with sight loss in many mainstream schools - have a massive impact on their mobility, confidence and self-esteem.

"My fear was that I'd be mollycoddled, rather than challenged at RNC," says Craig. "I wasn't sure I wanted to be around blind people all the time. But RNC doesn't feel like that at all. The facilities and training are great. It's all about being independent, and fulfilling your ambitions.

"I'm meeting people from all sorts of backgrounds, and they're in my situation. They know what it's like to blind. You can listen to their stories, learn from them (be it the best way to make a cup of tea or to travel across the world) as well as from the staff at RNC. The whole experience makes a difference to everything."

While RNC students make the headlines - and with good reason - less (to date) has been made of one of the driving forces of the success stories - the college's fabulous new facilities. If you haven't visited RNC recently (or ever), it's well worth dropping in. The original and very beautiful campus has been subject to a multi-million pound development programme, including a stunning new conference and sports centre (including private gym, sports and sauna facilities open to the general public) situated on Venns Lane. It is staggering in its scale, incredibly impressive in its quality and attention to detail (and completely accessible to anyone with disabilities). It's also rather good value for money- not only for the public (who can now sign up to use the gym, sauna, spa and sports facilities) but to organisations who have been looking for meeting and conferencing facilities in the county.

What's more it's all wrapped up with the chance to support a good cause while you work - or work out. All profits from the new conference centre are ploughed back into the work of the college.

"Our students have been the driving force behind this," says Tony Larkin, who as well as enjoying the role as head coach of the national blind squad, is RNC's head of events and conferencing. "We wanted to give the students the very best opportunities, as they train (the chance to participate in sport can be life transforming), and as they get ready to move into the workplace. Many students are now gaining valuable work experience at thePoint4, as massage and complementary therapists, fitness instructors or in business administration and customer service.

"We knew, though, that the new facilities would only work - for the students, and for the future of the college - if they were unparalled in terms of quality," he says. "We're absolutely thrilled with the result, which had been made possible because of public support and private and public funding. Those who have used the centre so far - from groups like the RNIB who came here for a youngsters' sports weekend, to Herefordshire FA (who use the facilities on an on-going basis now), to companies across the UK taking advance of our meeting facilities - have been completely overwhelmed by what it has to offer. We hope the people of Herefordshire will feel the benefit as much as our students do."

[ends main copy]

Box 1

A new world of fitness and relaxation

Members at thePoint4 have access to a



  • new state-of-the art gym

  • spa, including sauna and Jacuzzi

  • complementary therapy suite

  • sports hall for group bookings

  • beautiful bistro with outside patio serving food and drinks all day

  • personal trainers to help tailor their health and fitness programme

The enrolment fee is £30, with rates starting at £25 per month (£19 for those registered disabled). All facilities are fully accessible.

CONTACT INFORMATION

If you'd like to find out more about the work of RNC you can contact them on 01432 376621, email info@rncb.ac.uk or log on to www.rncb.ac.uk. For more details about the sports and conferencing facilities at thePoint4 tel: 01432 376621 or log on to www.thepoint4.com

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