By: Joe Paschall, Athletic Director, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Abstract: Physical fitness and recreational activities are important for individuals with visual impairments. Suggestions for activities and modifications to support access are discussed.
Keywords: visually impaired, fitness, physical education, recreation.
Almost any fitness or recreational activity can be I will begin by discussing fitness. This is an area adapted for individuals with visual impairments, of concern for many young people and adults with and some don’t require any adaptations at all. visual impairments. There are many ways to build Several items to consider are accessibility to fa-physical fitness. This can be done at home, in locilities, equipment, and transportation. One way cal gyms, and other community facilities. Work-to support success in this area, is to research ing out at home is difficult for some individuals. these transportation and accessibility issues be-However, making the workout environment more fore attempting to participate in activities. interesting or entertaining can help the workouts.
Music or television can keep people engaged. Consistency is another important factor; having a routine schedule will help tremendously.
Many fitness activities can be done in the home. Stretching routines are the easiest. The individual needs only a mat. The routine can last from 0 to 40 minutes and stretch most parts of the body. Stretching also reinforces awareness of range of motion. Some individuals are amazed at how their bodies can move. Having a therapy ball is great. There are many hand and arm motions which can be done with a ball which can help increase your heart rate. Hand weights can build muscle tone. Sometimes people are concerned about muscles becoming too large. Doing a twenty-minute workout with light hand weights can tone the muscles, but not increase mass. Yoga, is another activity that is not intense, but has many benefits. Yoga can release stress, which in turn will help physically through relaxation exercises.
Most communities have local workout facilities. In local workout gyms, as long as the individual with a visual impairment is oriented to the equipment and facility correctly, he or she is able to work out successfully independently. However, I have heard some instances where these individuals are denied access. Being properly trained may help this challenge. Most communities have walking trails in their local parks. They are usually easy to access. Finding a walking partner is usually not difficult. Having this type of commitment helps both partners keep to their activity schedule, and helps them stay healthy.
When choosing recreational activities for youth or adults with visual impairments, the sky is the limit. I have taken students scuba diving, rock climbing, ice skating, water skiing, snow skiing, cycling, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, golfing, bowling, and many other activities. Only a few of these need minor adaptations. The key to success is advanced planning and exposure to equipment before attempting the activity. I have drafted lesson plans for many of these activities and would be happy to share them with anyone interested. If you would like, contact me via e-mail at <JoePaschall@TSBVI.edu>.
In closing, providing these opportunities for individuals with visual impairments just takes a little extra work and creativity. However, the outcome can help these individuals gain self confidence, and a multitude of additional benefits.