Main content

Alert message

By Jean Robinson, Family Support Specialist, TSBVI Visually Impaired Outreach

Abstract: This article is the first in a series of articles that will be featured in this year's See/Hear focusing on elements of the expanded core curriculum. This article examines the benefits of working on recreation and leisure skills for students with visual impairments and deafblindness and offers some resources for parents and teachers.

Key Words: sports, recreation, leisure, athlete, blind, deafblind

I have wondered why anyone would choose to play sports. I hate to sweat, and even as a spectator, I feel bad for the losers. I identify with them, as I have little athletic ability. In high school I dreaded P.E. class and looked for excuses not to participate. During the early 70s it was easy for a female to graduate without having to endure much physical activity.

Thirty years later I have to admit that my limited participation in physical activity and team sports in my youth hindered my progress in developing skills that are useful in becoming a successful adult. Qualities such as self-confidence, determination, courage, persistence, openness, fairness, patience, and respect are hard to understand and develop without experiencing them. Participating in team and individual sports is a wonderful way to develop these qualities while having a great time with your family, other students, and within your community.

Yes, a child with blindness or low vision can become an athlete. It usually requires systematically teaching specific skills that others pick up by watching. It also requires having the opportunity to use those skills over and over again in order to develop competence. The biggest obstacle is not the blindness but the missed opportunities, due to preconceived notions, stereotypes, and attitudes.

Photo of
Track event at Sports Camp on the
TSBVI Campus.

Thirty-four students with significant vision loss from across Texas did not miss their opportunity to discover their hidden talents during two Sports Camps held during TSBVI summer school. These camps were made possible through a 2-year grant from the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) administered through the Department of Blindness & Low Vision at Western Michigan University (WMU). The goals of the camps are to introduce a variety of sports available for students with blindness and to teach specific skills to encourage their participation in their local school and community activities, alongside their sighted peers.

The program is modeled after the Sports Education Camps for Visually Impaired and Blind Youth developed by Dr. Paul Ponchillia at WMU. A major objective is to train pre-professionals, regular education teachers, and especially PE/APE teachers on how students with visual impairments can and should participate in physical education, athletics, and community recreation programs in their local districts. The Senior Camp for 13-18-year-olds involves track and field, swimming, gymnastics, wrestling, bowling, and goalball. The Elementary Camp for 10-12-year-olds involves an introduction to running, throwing, jumping, swimming, gymnastics, wrestling, and goalball.

This first year many of the students were signed up for Sports Camp by their parents and were not looking forward to participating. They had bad experiences when it came to sports. The students' preconceived notions about sports were obvious from their answers on a pretest. They included: I never love sports; I never feel that I am better in sports than most kids my age; I never consider myself a good athlete. Other comments were: I am picked on in regular gym class; I am not treated like everyone else; and I don't participate in gym class with my friends.

During the weekend camps each student had one-on-one time to learn and practice new skills. The camps concluded with competitive events. I was amazed at the effort these students made on a hot summer day. The most rewarding result was seen on their faces when volunteers and family members yelled their encouragement as they completed their events. The post-tests substantiate the feelings of camaraderie and success. Their perceptions changed to: I love sports; I am better in sports than most kids my age; and I consider myself a good athlete. Most reported that they learned how to change a sport so they could participate. Many believed they could participate in sports offered in their local school and community. Almost all the participants wanted to return to Sports Camp next summer to improve on their athletic skills and have the opportunity to compete with others who have limited vision.

Hunter Mouton, a good-looking 16-year-old, discovered the fun of competing on a goalball team and wants to get a team together in the Houston area. He was so pumped up from his experience at the Senior Sports Camp that he returned to volunteer at the Elementary Sports Camp along with his dad, David. His mom, Suzanna, had these comments about the Senior Sports Camp:

I really thought it was one of the neatest things TSBVI has done during the summer. Camp Challenge was good, but the sports camp hit home because it was activities the kids could take back into their schools. My son hated swimming strokes and swore he couldn't do it. At sports camp he not only swam, but liked it! I felt like sports camp gave him the opportunity to experience some sports he never would have thought of participating in before. The other kids were so excited. I was very pleased to have been there. My husband also really enjoyed the Elementary Sports Camp. I' m a goal ball fan now!

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Hunter or his parents, Suzanna and David Mouton, by phone 281-955-7066 or email .

What are your preconceived ideas of what your child can do? Have you ever met or read about a blind skier, wrestler, ice skater, or golfer? If not, take time to read a previous See/Hear article about Rebecca Soto from San Antonio who is totally blind . After applying for a scholarship to attend an outdoor sports program for persons with disabilities, she fell in love with downhill skiing and now is training for the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team.

USABA trains blind and visually impaired athletes in nine sports---alpine and nordic skiing, goalball, judo, power lifting, swimming, tandem cycling, track and field, and wrestling. Top athletes are selected to become part of Team USA and are eligible to compete in the Paralympics. The Paralympics are a multi-sport, multi-disability competition of elite, world-class, disabled athletes. Sponsorships are available through such organizations as USABA. Read about the opportunities at or call (719) 630-0422.

Power lifting is another sport wide open for blind athletes. Cody Colchado, Jr. is a national and world champion power lifter. Cody's motto is, Adversity causes some men to break, and others to break records. He was born deaf and due to an injury lost his vision. He continued to play football his senior year of high school, relying on cues from his teammates. To read how he faced his challenges go to

I encourage you to educate yourself about the opportunities available and let your school district and regional service center know about your interest in sports, recreation and leisure activities. Most high schools have wrestling teams. The only modification needed for UIL competitive wrestling is for the participants to "touch start" and maintain contact during a match. The TSBVI wrestling team competes with other high school wrestling teams in the Austin area. Students with a visual impairment have the opportunity to go to regional playoffs just like their sighted peers. If you want to see them in action go to our website and enter keyword "wrestling" to find their schedule and past pictures.

Another opportunity is Sports Extravaganza held in the fall in the Dallas area. This event is open to children and youth with visual impairments. It has activities and competitions for all ages --- toddlers to teens. To read more about experiences from previous participants do a website search using these article titles on the TSBVI website: "Goalball Highlights Third Annual Sports Extravaganza," "My Day at Sports Extravaganza," "A Proud Mom," and "A Proud Athlete." Links to information about Sports Extravaganza can be found on the VI Supplemental Services page of the ESC Region 10 website   You many also contact Kitra Gray at (972) 348-1580 or Randy Foederer at (972) 348-1570 to request information.

Tandem cycling is a popular sport among people who are blind or visually impaired. It is a sport in which people who are blind or visually impaired can compete along side people who are fully sighted.

Types of racing

Road racing

Road racing takes place on the road. It can last for up to a few hours. Road bikes sometimes incorporate aerodynamic design and they sometimes have up to 27 speeds.

Track racing

Track racing takes place in a velodrome, a steep banked circuit track. Track bikes have only one speed; which is custom fitted to the cyclist. Track cycles also do not have brakes.

Types of riders


The captain is the person in the front seat. He or she is always fully sighted. The captain is the one who controls the bike.


The stocker is the person riding in the back seat. He or she is either totally blind or visually impaired. The stocker helps power the bike along with the captain.

Both the captain and the stocker must cooperate as a team in order to achieve their goal.

Related Links

USABA-United States Association of Blind Athletes

TexCATS-Texas Capital Area Tandem Society

Volunteer Opportunities-A site posting bike related volunteer opportunities in the Austin area.

Cycling Clubs in Texas-A site with a focus on using bikes as an alternate transportation

Texas Cycling Laws-A site posting the Texas laws regarding bicycling

Harris Cyclery-This site tells you some useful riding tips for beginning tandem riders

Where to buy a tandem bike

Created by Sam and Alfonzo
Intro to Work Program- Summer 2001

presented at AER Toronto, 2002 by

Adapted balls, beepers, games, etc.


P.O. Box 673
Northbrook, IL 60065
(800) 468-4789
Has talking tape measure, braille and large print playing cards, board games, beeping sports balls, audible flying disk, talking chess computer, talking and braille dice and more.

Independent Living Aids
27 East Mall
Plainview, NY 11803
(800) 537-2118 (516) 752-8080 Fax (516) 752-3135
Has cards, board games, card games, sewing aids, large print crossword puzzles and other recreational items.

Ann Morris Enterprises
551 Hosner Mountain Rd
Stormville, NY 12582
(914) 227-9659
(800) 454-3175

Maxi Aids
42 Executive Boulevard
P.O. Box 3290
Farmingdale, NY 11735
(516) 752-0521
(800) 522-6294

Technologies for the Visually Impaired, Inc.
9 Nolan Ct.
Hauppauge, NY 11788
Phone/Fax (516) 724-4479

Distributes Robotron's Columbus Talking Compass.

Access to Recreation
8 Sandra Ct.
Newbury Park, CA 91320
(800) 634-4351
Has recreational aids for persons with mobility impairments. May be useful to blind or visually impaired persons who are also mobility impaired.

Lighthouse International
111 East 59th Street, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10022
(800) 829-0500 Fax (212) 821-9727 or 9728
Carries a variety of recreational items.


National Beep Baseball Association
2231 West 1st Ave.
Topeka, KS 66606-1304
(785) 234-2156
Send E-mail
The NBBA is a representative national organization which assists, promotes, encourages and develops amateur beep baseball programs throughout the United
States of America and internationally.

Adventure Travel

Wilderness Inquiry II
1313 5th street SE
Suite 327
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 379-3858

Athletics (Track & Field)

The Canadian Blind Sports Association
1600 James Naismith Drive
Gloucester, Ontario, K1B 5N4, Canada
(613) 748-5609

The United States Association of Blind Athletes
33 N. Institute Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
(719) 630-0422
Provides opportunities for competition and training in track and field, wrestling, tandem cycling, judo, power lifting, swimming, goalball, and skiing. This is the U.S. representative to the International blind Sports Association and is the National Governing Body for goalball.

The Michigan Blind Athletic Association
C/o 55335 S. Thompson Lane
Three Rivers, MI 49093
Sponsors USABA sprts in Michigan and provides a sports education camp for students with visual impairments.


American Blind Bowling Association
President – Wilbert Turner
3041 E. 121st St.
Cleveland, OH 44129
(216) 561-6864



International Bicycle Tours
Box 754
Essex, CT 06426
(860) 767-7005
Has tandem and mixed tours in U.S. and Europe and custom tours.

See USABA above


“Accessing Local Sports and Recreation Programs”
The Hadley School for the Blind
800 Elm St.
Winnetka, IL 60093


“Teaching Sports and Recreation to Youths with Visual Impairments”
Division of Continuing Education
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(Generally offered the first weekend in July)
To become a self-study distance education course 1/1/03


  • “Adapting Mainstream Sports and Physical Education for Students with Visual Impairments”
  • “Introduction to Goalball”
  • Goalball Strategies”

Contact: Sherry Gordon,


American Blind Golfers Association
300 Carondelet St.
New Orleans, La. 70112
Phone: 504-891-4737.

United States Blind Golf Association
3094 Shamrock St. N.
Tallahassee, FL 32308
Phone/Fax (850) 893-4511
Organization of blind golfers, has quarterly newsletter, The Midnight Golfer.

Outdoor Recreation

Blind Outdoor Leisure Development (BOLD)
533 E. Main
Aspen, CO 81661
(970) 925-9511 Fax (970) 923-7338
Has skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, and other outdoor activities, also many summer activities such as hiking, rock climbing and other activities.

Bradford Woods Outdoor Center
5040 State Rd. 67 North
Martinsville, IN 46151
(765) 342-2915 Fax: (765) 349-1086
Has summer camps for ages 8-18, outdoor challenge education, environmental education and arranges custom events.

Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center
Box 697
Breckenridge, CO 80424
(970) 453-6422 Fax (970) 453-4676
Offers skiing, year-round camping, snowshoeing, wilderness programs, climbing wall, ropes course, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, group leadership development and team-building programs and customized programs.

Colorado Mountain School
Box 2062
Estes Park, CO 80517
(970) 586-5758 Fax (970) 586-5798
Does rock climbing instruction and trips.

National Camps for Blind Children (NCBC)
4444 South 52nd Street
Lincoln, NE 68516
(402) 488-0981 Fax (402) 488-7582
NCBC is a part of Christian Record Services and has summer camps across the U.S. and Canada. Call or write for more information. (In regard to other camping opportunities, see American Camping Association listing above and/or see our camps resource list).

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports
Box 139
Killington, VT 05751
(802) 786-4991 Fax (802) 786-4986
Downhill & water skiing, horseback riding, day camps and canoeing.

Scuba Diving

Handicapped Scuba Association
HSA International
1104 El Prado
San Clemente, CA 92672
Phone/Fax (949) 498-6128
HSA Int'l. has worldwide educational programs. HSA operates as an independent diver training and certifying agency and each year plans, coordinates and conducts several dive vacations to exotic locations.


Skating Association for the Blind and Handicapped, Inc.
1200 East and West Road
West Seneca, New York 14224


Ski For Light, Inc.
1455 West Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 827-3232
Cross-country skiing for blind, visually impaired, and mobility-impaired individuals and their guides. Ski for Light Bulletin is published 3 times a year in print, cassette, and via e-Mail by Ski for Light, Inc.

Adaptive Sports Association
Box 1884
Durango, CO 81302
(970) 259-0374
Has skiing and other outdoor programs.

The American Blind Skiing Foundation
227 E. North Ave.
Elmhurst, Illinois 60126
Has alpine skiing, day and weekend trips.

See BOLD, Breckinridge, sam… look at outdoor above

Generic Disabilities

National Sports Center for the Disabled
Box 1290
Winter Park, CO 80482
(970) 726-1540 Fax (970) 726-4112
Offers rafting, sailing, therapeutic horseback riding, mountain biking, adaptive cycling camping, hiking, in-line skating, rock climbing, baseball camps and more.

One Sportime Way
Atlanta, GA 30340
(800) 444-5700 Fax (800) 845-1535
They sell a variety of sports supplies for persons with disabilities and a teachers guide to help with inclusion.

Disabled Sports USA
National Headquarters
451 Hungerford Drive, Suite 100
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: (301) 217-0960
Fax: (301)217-0968
Offers nationwide sports rehab programs to people with disabilities. Involves a nationwide network of regional chapters.


compiled by
Paul E. Ponchillia, Ph.D.
Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI 49008