Sport has an uncanny power to unite people and overcome barriers caused by contrasting languages, cultures and beliefs.
But what about those caused by sight loss?
Blindness and impaired vision are obvious impediments to anyone looking to take part in the sport of any kind. Fortunately, awareness of this is growing — and helping sports become more accessible.
The Enduring Impact of the Paralympics
Amazingly (but unsurprisingly to anyone who’s seen the Paralympics) research shows Paralympians are regarded as the most inspirational athletes for many young people.
The Paralympic Games is a huge event with worldwide recognition. Athletes with diverse disabilities use their remarkable drive, self-discipline, and ability to prove enough determination can help you overcome all manner of physical challenges.
Football, judo, cycling and other Paralympic sports all accommodate athletes with impaired vision.
Blind Golf and Goalball: Breaking Barriers, Breaking Ground
Greater respect and understanding of accessibility can make a huge difference to people affected by blindness and impaired vision. Organizations that recognize being unable to see well or at all is no reason to exclude certain participants are paving the way for a more open approach to all sports.
One fantastic example is the United States Blind Golf Association, an organization committed to helping people living with blindness and visual impairments discover the joys of golf.
The Association (which wittily proclaims ‘you don’t have to see it, to tee it!’ on its website) runs multiple clinics and tournaments to transform people’s lives through sport. Simply making those living with sight-loss aware of opportunities to get involved may lead to positive life-choices and help people discover new passions.
Goalball is another inspiring sport, but it’s not just embracing accessibility — it’s built on it.
Goalball was created in 1946 to help rehabilitate World War II veterans blinded in combat. It’s played only by athletes with full or partial sight-loss, and all participants must cover their eyes to guarantee fairness.
Embracing Technology to Aid Indoor Sports
For sports played indoors, venues must take advantage of the latest technology to ensure all visitors and participants with impaired vision can find their way safely.
RightHear is a smartphone app designed to do just that. It’s an innovative indoor orientation solution that makes finding your way from one part of an interior environment to another fast, safe and simple.
It works with sensors installed in any location to provide audio directions, replacing standard GPS tools that become useless when indoors.
This allows users to maintain their independence and reach their destination — such as a changing room to prepare for a game — with minimal delay. Any obstacles or barriers in their way, such as seats, can be avoided thanks to RightHear’s audio directions. This reduces the risk of injury significantly.
Sports should be open to everyone regardless of physical capabilities, whether participants are affected by blindness, impaired vision or any other challenging conditions. It’s amazing to see so many initiatives and organizations taking such powerful strides in accessibility, paving the way for a more inclusive future.
What other accessible sports do you know of?