How I Came To Prevail In The Jewish Blind & Disabled Abseil by Gail Patterson

Gail Patterson Picture.jpg

It was a few months ago now when I was carrying out my usual quick browse through Facebook – it only takes several hours each day! – and a post popped up about a charity abseil.

My first thought was that I’d always wanted to do a challenge to raise money for charity. Then I saw it was being arranged by Jewish Blind & Disabled, which instantly provoked much research into the organisation and much satisfaction in finding out how they provide a life of independence, dignity and choice for those who feared the loss of all three.


It only took a few seconds for me to get in touch, sign up for the abseil and express my keen interest in wanting to get more involved with the charity.

But then it dawned on me... could this be a feasible feat for me?

I was born with Nystagmus, Astigmatism and no pigmentation in the back of my eyes, leaving me partially blind in both eyes. I have needed assistance throughout my life but managed to reach my educational goals, with the support units at Hasmonean primary and secondary schools. I even went one big step further by going to Leeds Metropolitan University, who were also very accommodating by providing note takers in lectures and so forth.

I wont lie, things have been a struggle over the years but the one lesson to learn is that I didn’t let it take my independence away and stop me from what I want to achieve in life.

Leading up to the abseil – which was a freefall descent down the UK’s tallest sculpture, the ArcelorMittal Orbit in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park - the staff at Jewish Blind & Disabled were so warm and welcoming, guiding me step by step in preparation for the big day, and making sure I visually had everything in place that I would need.

I find it particularly daunting to travel. I am not able to drive and need to rely on public transport, which can make me very anxious. For the abseil, I travelled by bus from my home in North London to the Orbit in Stratford, where I met up with my partner. As much as he teased me about the 262 drop that lay ahead, I was not phased as I had already overcome one big feat for the day by just getting there safely.

After an induction and a run through the safety equipment, we got a lift up to our doom… or so I thought.

For everyone else this is where their nerves kicked in – standing at the top on a balcony waiting for your turn to descend. But I was feeling confident.

When my turn approached, the staff were very helpful in making sure I clearly felt safe and visually could picture what I needed to do. I then had to lean back and lower myself down the ledge still with my feet against the wall in an L shape.

But it was at this point when my body decided to say “nope I’ve had enough” and went into jelly mode.

“On the count of 3,” said the instructor, “kick off the wall with only one hand on the rope.” He counted 1-2-3, but nothing happened. “Gail you need to kick off”, he repeated. There was a good few minutes of me shouting “let me back up”, until I just thought GO FOR IT!

Admittedly I held on for dear life the whole way down, but once I reached the floor I felt a huge wave of satisfaction.

Overall I am chuffed I persisted, and had such wonderful support from my partner, parents, friends and supporters. I am also proud to have raised money for such a worthy cause that is now very close to my heart.

I hope I’m able to assist and raise confidence in people and help them realise that even if you have a disability or are partially blind, like me, that there is still support out there to help you achieve your goals and aspirations.