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Earlier this month, walking charity the Ramblers, announced Amar Latif as its new President. Known for his television appearances as the Blind Adventurer, Amar plans to use the high-profile voluntary role to support the Ramblers mission to ensure that walking is accessible to everyone regardless of location, health, ethnicity, ability, wealth, gender, or sexuality. Amar said:
‘Being appointed President of the Ramblers is a huge honour. The Ramblers mission to ensure equal access to nature for all is so important for health and wellbeing of people across Great Britain. I’ve been passionate about walking all my life, and if I can enjoy the benefits of a walk, then so can other people. I want to help inspire people, irrespective of their background or ability, to embrace the endless natural beauty of our country and improve their health and wellbeing.’
People started telling me that I could no longer do all the things I had wanted to do, with travel being at the top of the list
By the age of 18, Amar had lost 95% of his vision. ‘People started telling me that I could no longer do all the things I had wanted to do, with travel being at the top of the list,’ says Amar. ‘They’d say it was too dangerous, and couldn’t understand what a blind person could get out of sightseeing.’
Determined not to allow sight loss become a barrier to walking outdoors for himself and others, Amar established his own travel business for blind and visually impaired travellers and now works as a television presenter and public speaker, referring to himself as: the blind guy who wants to show you the world. During his 2005 TV debut in the BBC2 series Beyond Boundaries, Amar pushed himself to his limits on a gruelling coast-to-coast hike across Nicaragua.
Ross Maloney, CEO of the Ramblers, said:
‘Amar will be a fantastic President for the Ramblers as he inspires so many people to push their limits and enjoy walking in nature. We want everyone to be able to enjoy walking in our green spaces, but research shows that access is not equal with people on lower incomes, from ethnic minority groups or living with disabilities much less able to enjoy spending time in nature.
‘We want to break down the barriers to anyone enjoying walking, and that is why we are campaigning for the freedom to roam to be expanded to cover woodland, watersides and more grassland. This would more than double the coverage of the freedom to roam in England and would directly benefit those that need it most, giving the most deprived groups easy access to the green spaces within a 20-minute walk from their front door.’
People living in the most deprived areas in England and Wales have to travel 48% further to enjoy the freedom to roam, and people from the most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods have to travel 73% further to find their nearest green space. 29% of people living with a long-term illness or disability have not visited a natural space in the previous month, and over 20% of people can’t use public rights of way because they can’t use stiles or kissing gates.
It’s estimated that in England, over £2 billion every year could be saved in health costs alone if everyone had good access to green space due to increased physical activity. Dr Jo Mahoney, GP and keen walker, commented:
‘For years I have seen women and men visit my practice with health problems that I know would improve through exercise. I also understand that people struggle to juggle busy lives and look after themselves at the same time. When people are dealing with health issues, or if they feel isolated or anxious, getting outside for a short walk can make a huge difference. Ramblers Wellbeing Walks are a great way to get started with gentle exercise in a safe and fun environment.’
Amar will succeed writer and DJ Stuart Maconie, who held the position of president of the Ramblers from 2017 to 2023. Stuart Maconie will continue his support of the charity in the role of vice president.
The Ramblers is currently campaigning to expand our freedom to roam, to ensure more people have access to open landscapes and the benefits they offer. For more information on the charity’s work and ways to get active, involved and most importantly, outside, check out their website.
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