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Spring 2007 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Sarah K. Bradley, USABA

Abstract: this article reviews the history of the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA), discusses benefits of athletic participation, and provides USABA contact information.

Key Words: blindness, visual impairment, United States Association of Blind Athletes, USABA, sports, sports camps, International Blind Sports Association Youth, Student World Games

The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) is a community based organization of the United States Olympic Committee and serves individuals who are blind or visually impaired across the United States. Our vision is a world in which all individuals who are blind or visually impaired have the opportunity to discover their athletic potential and pursue their athletic dreams.

USABA emerged in 1976 when a group of individuals met at the Olympics for the Disabled in Toronto, Ontario, to discuss their vision of the future of sport for athletes with visual impairments. In the beginning, founder Arthur Copeland ran the organization from his kitchen table on a shoe string budget in Beach Haven, New Jersey. Since then, USABA has evolved into a national organization that provides sports opportunities in eleven sports which impact the lives of more than 2,000 athletes of all ages and abilities each year and has reached more than 100,000 individuals in it's 30 years of operation. The organization has emerged as more than just a world-class trainer of blind athletes, it has become a champion of the abilities of Americans who are legally blind. In fact, USABA athletes have served as U.S. Olympic Team members and won medals against sighted competitors. This past summer, USABA had thirty-four of its athletes compete in the 2006 Rocky Mountain State Games, the first state games in the nation to fully integrate athletes who are blind and visually impaired into competition. More than 25 medals were earned by USABA athletes from the ages of 7 through adult who were able to showcase their talents and abilities in a competition with more than 5,000 competitors.

Sports Education Camps

Each summer, USABA chapters around the country hold Sports Education Camps for youth ages 5-18. The first Sports Education Camp (SEC) took place in 1988 after a group of adult athletes with visual impairments identified the problem within physical education and sports for children with visual impairments. Their goal was to teach youth with visual impairments basic sports skills and activities, increase the knowledge of parents, teachers and the community regarding adaptations required for participation, and in turn increase access to physical education, sports and recreation for people with visual impairments. Today, SEC's take place in ten different states around the country, each summer offering youth the opportunity to participate in a variety of sports and recreation activities, including judo, cycling, track & field, swimming, wrestling, goalball, gymnastics, bowling, and rock climbing. Paralympic athletes and elite coaches are involved in these residential programs.

Through an affiliation with Western Michigan University, research has been conducted concerning the outcomes from these camps. The research done at the SEC's has shown that skills learned at the camps have had a continuing positive impact on the lives of these participating young athletes. In fact, more than 45% of students who attended sports camp for two consecutive years participated on their home school sports teams. In addition, 80% of these youth participated in their school physical education programs, compared to 27% of blind and visually impaired youth overall. Research has also shown that participants have also learned how to adapt sports to their needs in a school or extracurricular setting, creating an advocate within the child.

The following are SEC dates for Summer 2007. You can also find this information on our website at .

  • Michigan Sports Education Junior Camp. May 6-8; Kalamazoo, Michigan. Contact: Paul Ponchillia <>.
  • Michigan Sports Education Senior Camp. May 9-12; Kalamazoo, Michigan. Contact: Paul Ponchillia <>.
  • North East Blind Athletic Association. May 23-26; Orno, Maine. Contact: Mark Sinclair <>
  • Lakeshore Sports Education Camp. May 31-June 4; Birmingham, Alabama. Contact: Jennifer Armbruster <>.
  • Camp Abilities Tucson. June 3-9; Tucson, Arizona. Contact: Megan O'Connell <>.
  • Colorado Sports Education Camp. June 17-22; Colorado Springs, Colorado. Contact: Donna Keale <>.
  • Wisconsin Junior Sports Camp. June 22-24; Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Contact: Patrick Gafney <>.
  • Wisconsin Senior Sports Camp. June 26-30; Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Contact: Patrick Gafney <>.
  • Wisconsin 5-8 Year Olds and Parents Sports Camp. June 29-30; Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Contact: Patrick Gafney <>.
  • "Camp LIFE. July 7-14; Denton, Texas. Contact: Vicki Mason-Foederer <>.
  • Camp Inter-Actions. July 7-20; New Durham, New Hampshire. Contact: Debbie Gross <>
  • `Sports Education Camp. July 9-14; Anchorage, Alaska. Contact: Margaret Webber <>.
  • Utah Foundation for the Blind and Visually Impaired. July 29-August 3; Salt Lake City, Utah. Contact: Tony Jepson <>.

IBSA Youth and Student World Games

USABA will be playing host to the 2007 International Blind Sports Association Youth and Student World Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado July 11-17. Young athletes from around the world will compete in five sports for blind and visually impaired youth, ages 12-19. Competition will be held in track & field, judo, swimming, powerlifting and goalball. These Games will take place at the athletic facilities at Colorado College.

In 2005, USABA had the privilege of hosting more than 250 athletes from 26 countries in the World Youth Championships, which were also held in Colorado Springs. USABA is honored to once again host this prestigious event and showcase the best young blind and visually impaired athletes from around the world in world competition, stated Kevin Szott, USABA Board President. These games will serve as a springboard for other international competition for these young athletes, including future Paralympic Games. More than 100 countries have been invited to participate and twenty four of these countries with delegations from Europe, Asia, South America, North America, Australia and Africa having already committed to send competitors. For more information on these games, visit or contact USABA at <>.

USABA strives to become the premier provider of sport opportunities for people who are blind and visually impaired. The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own. (Benjamin Disraeli) USABA strives to make possible for all individuals who are blind and visually impaired the opportunity to discover their true potential and overcome obstacles and identifying their abilities. With the growth of self confidence, leadership, poise and determination that sport provides, these athletes can become advocates for themselves, role models for others, and help to break down the stereotypes that follow disability. As our U.S. Paralympic teams continue to train every day for the honor to represent Team U.S.A. in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, USABA also continues to support young athletes who are blind and visually impaired in order for them to reach their full potential, their athletic goals, and their dreams!