Visually-impaired student takes on running challenge

10 May 2016

A visually-impaired student from Henshaws Specialist College in Harrogate is gearing up for a new challenge. The College is well known for its reputation and specialism in the world of those affected by sight loss.

Tom Oates, 19, of Bishop Monkton, is no stranger to achieving his goals, despite having a number of disabilities due to having Bardet Biedl Syndrome, a genetic disorder which can affect sight as well as presenting other physical difficulties such as kidney problems and obesity.

Now he has set himself the challenge of completing the Melmerby 10k on Sunday 29 May in a bid to raise funds for a MOTOmed movement trainer for the College’s gym to help other students improve their mobility. His career goals include working in care, or supporting visitors in a heritage setting.

Tom, who is almost blind, regularly takes part in 5k park runs at Fountains Abbey with his mum, Emma, who recently completed the London Marathon, but wanted to step up his distance and improve his time. He will run independently but with Emma as a guide to advise him on the footing and any obstacles. Tom, who joined Henshaws after leaving St Aidan’s School in Harrogate, is also training in the College gym at lunchtimes with the help of Sports Instructor Vicky Little.

Emma said:

Tom’s focus is always on other people: he never thinks about his own problems, he wants to help others to reach their potential which is why he decided to raise money for the movement trainer. He wants to give something back and this is why he has taken on the run.

The movement trainer is designed to help a range of people affected by disability who struggle to access exercise through more traditional options. As they become enabled, this clever equipment “intelligently” reduces its motorised involvement.

Tom attends Henshaws Specialist College two days a week, empowering him to adopt and embed proven strategies around sight loss to prepare him with a set of transferable skills for life as an adult, potentially living independently and securing employment in one of his vocational areas of interest.

Tom Oates with a MOTOmed movement trainer
Tom Oates with a MOTOmed movement trainer

His previous achievements include completing a coast-to-coast tandem ride with Emma in 2012.

Tom has set up a fundraising page at

Henshaws Principal Angela North said:

Tom is a real hero. Not only does he overcome his own challenges, but he wants to help others overcome theirs. He is making great progress at College and completing the 10k will be another huge achievement.


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