Everyone deserves the opportunity to take part in the fun and excitement of sports. Sadly, there once was a time when getting exercise, socialization, and motivation through sports was quite difficult for visually impaired individuals. Luckily, that’s all changing. Now, athletes with low and no vision are able to participate in a wide variety of sports.
Wondering what kinds of sports athletes with impaired vision might participate in? You might be surprised by the answers.
The thought of people with low vision shooting arrows might sound a bit frightening, but once you watch a blind archer, you'll understand that it’s really quite safe. Not only that, but blind archers can actually be very good. In fact, there is an entire organization in the UK whose sole mission is to provide equal sporting opportunities to blind and low-vision individuals.
This organization, called British Blind Sport, developed a special form of archery called “tactile archery” which allows the archers to use a unique device to help feel where they’re aiming. A sighted person then tells the archer where their arrow landed, helping them adjust their tactile device to improve their aim.
Tactile archery has been well accepted by athletes with visual impairments and is now becoming available in various countries around the world. Additionally, Blind Archery was recently added to the lineup at the Paralympic Games and World Archery Para Championships, making it an even more competitive and exciting sport.
Another popular Paralympics event is blind soccer. Just as you may have guessed, this particular sport is hugely popular with blind and low-vision athletes around the world. In fact, it might just be the most popular sport among blind athletes. With that said, the International Blind Sports Association hosts regular blind soccer championship events.
How on earth is blind soccer played? Well, there are only a few changes to the traditional sport. The field, for instance, is quite a bit smaller and enclosed, meaning the ball cannot roll out of bounds. The teams consist of five players each—four blind athletes on the field, and one sighted player who acts as the goalie. The ball makes a noise each time it’s kicked, making it possible for players to track the ball all over the field. Additionally, coaches are allowed to help the athletes verbally and by hitting the metal goal posts to give their players direction.
This is all quite intense and can be tons of fun to follow just as you might any other soccer game. If you ever have an opportunity to check it out during a Paralympics event, you'll understand what we mean.
The last sport on our list is perhaps the most seemingly unlikely of all: baseball. When learning to play this all-American sport, players are taught to keep their “eye on the ball” above all else. How then can athletes with vision impairments play? Well, they add sound, of course!
The National Beep Baseball Association is a truly one-of-a-kind organization that, since 1976, has been dedicated to ensuring folks with low or no vision can participate in America's favorite pastime. Using a combination of a beeping ball and buzzing bases, they have created a baseball field setup that allows visually impaired athletes to play using their ears rather than eyes.
This organization has established beep baseball teams all over the country. The teams are co-ed so that everyone can be included, and there are regular championships that bring extra competitive fun into the picture.
There are many organizations working hard to ensure people of all vision levels can enjoy the benefits of playing sports. Not only have innovative people and groups adapted the sports mentioned above, but basketball, skiing, bowling, and many other athletic games have been adjusted to accommodate low-vision and blind players.
We hope to see this list continue to grow in the coming years so that more and more people with visual impairments can pursue all their interests with passion.