If I say, "accommodations and modifications for children and teens who are blind or visually impaired," your first thought is likely "children accessing education." You’d be right, but that’s not where the necessity for accommodations concludes!
We, parents and teachers, are often quite focused on our children grasping the academic curriculum and reaping the full benefit of school. Understandable.
Importance of Sports
Let us not, however, neglect the importance of children who are blind or visually impaired accessing recreation, fitness, and leisure activities, one of the nine areas of the blindness specific expanded core curriculum.
When our children participate in physical education activities within the school and extracurricular sports, they receive benefits aplenty. Benefits include increased confidence, social skills, teamwork, physical fitness and stamina, stress-reduction, and the sheer enjoyment of a pastime.
Making Sports Accessible
Parents, when it comes to your child accessing sports outside of school, you take the lead. Prepare to give your child experiences in an assortment of sports (gymnastics, soccer, t-ball, basketball, swimming, track and field, wrestling, bowling, etc.) in order to find out where his or her interests lie.
Before each sport season begins, enlist the help of your child’s Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) and Orientation and Mobility Specialist (O&M instructor) and, taking into consideration the child’s functional vision, brainstorm how the sport can be made accessible.
Examples of accommodations in sports include:
- Using a ball which contrasts in color to the field or court
- Using a beeping or jingling ball
- Taping rope to define boundaries on the ground
- Using tape that contrasts in color to define boundaries on the ground
- Placing an auditory clue in a goal/ hoop
- Running with a guide
- Using sunglasses and a brimmed hat if the sunlight or glare is burdensome
- One-on-one instruction in form prior to the season
- Providing a tactile representation of the field or court for exploring
- Practicing in the shade or indoors; alternatively, adding light to the field
- With the child’s permission, using her as the model for teaching the team or class a new technique, as she will receive hands-on instruction
- Utilizing the child’s strengths, such as using her as a pitch runner in baseball instead of as a batter
With a little preparation, ingenuity, and flexibility, children who are blind or visually impaired can access sports and reap the benefits!