People who are blind or visually impaired can live a sporting life and enjoy a full range of activities. Whether it’s bowling or baseball, golf or dancing, biking or martial arts, swimming or surfing, there is something for everyone.
Physical activity is important for health and well-being, and having a vision impairment is no reason to give up participating in sports or exercise. There is a wide range of activities for people who are blind or visually impaired to remain physically active, engage in sports, or just get out, be healthy and socialize.
Sometimes people only think of major competitive events such as the Paralympics. However, there are opportunities to participate in sports at all levels – whether in teams or individually. People who are visually impaired can and do participate in extreme sports, such as freestyle skiing. For the less action-oriented, there is tandem biking or walking. For those who want to get into competitive team sports, it’s important to know they are open to people with various degrees of vision loss. To level the playing field, some competitive sports require participants to wear a blindfold.
Cost can be a consideration that prevents people from exploring sporting activities. While there are high expenses associated with certain sports, there are also organizations who will waive or reduce fees for people who are blind or visually impaired. And there are low cost camps for children, adults and families.
Whatever the sport - and whether a person is visually impaired or not - it’s important to try and avoid injuries. Wear appropriate clothing and protective gear and get prompt medical attention if there is an injury. Lighthouse Guild offers tips for preventing sports-related eye injuries.
As someone who is legally blind and has participated in marathons and also enjoys snow and water skiing, I encourage people to find an activity that’s right for them.
Sports organizations that have programs for people who are blind or visually impaired include:
USABA (United States Association for Blind Athletes)
United States Association of Blind Athletes (Regional & International)
NYC Chapter – Achilles International
Skiing - Alpine, Cross Country and Water
Ski for Light (National & International)
Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports
Leaps of Faith Adaptive Skiers (Water & Alpine)
Official Site of the National Beep Baseball Association (Regional and National)
Blind Outrigger Paddling for the Blind - Makapo Aquatics Project
InTandem Cycling (New York City)
Third Eye Insight - Fitness for the Blind
World Seido Karate Organization
American Blind Bowling Association, Inc.: Home (Regional & National)
Camp Abilities - Brockport, New York
VCB Camp for Children, Adults and Families
Ed Plumacher, adaptive technology specialist at Lighthouse Guild, is a sports enthusiast. For more information about Lighthouse Guild, visit Lighthouseguild.org.