Athletics For The Blind And Visually Impaired

According to the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) there are nine competitive sports for blind or visually impaired athletes that they recognize. These include cycling, goalball, judo, powerlifting, skiing, swimming, wrestling, and 5-a-side football. However, there are many blind or visually impaired athletes around the world who compete in almost every sport imaginable (a).

I am particularly interested in a few sports that emerged specifically for the blind or visually impaired. Many studies have shown that students, male and female, benefit from participating in sports and I wanted to learn more about the opportunities available for students with visual impairments.


Goalball was first created in 1946 to help in blinded war veterans with their rehabilitation. The game was first introduced at the Paralympics in 1976. Traditionally, two teams of three players, play on either end of a 60 X 40 foot court. The players are blindfolded to ensure a fair game. The goal of the game is to roll a ball, which contains a bell, past the opposite team. The teams take turn rolling the ball and defending their territory. The game can be played by anyone and can become quite competitive.


5-a-side football is very similar to what American’s call soccer. There are a few changes made to the game in order to accommodate the blind or visually impaired players. To begin the ball has a bell inside of it and all players on the field must wear a blindfold to keep the game fair. However, the team can have a seeing goalie who can protect the goal and help direct his/her teammates. Also, the size of the field is smaller than a typical soccer field and only five players are on the field for each team at a time. Otherwise, the rules are very similar to traditional soccer.

Sports, Schools and Visually Impaired Students

Whether a student has 20/20 vision or is totally blind, there is ample research available to show the positive relationship between sports and student achievement. From decreasing a young girls likelihood to become pregnant to motivating students to earn good grades in order to qualify for a team, sports are a great motivator!

When visually impaired students were surveyed about their experience in their phsycial education classes in an inclusion setting with other visually able students, they had overall positive responses. In a study published in the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, students ages 9-21 years old attended a 1-week summer sport camp and were enrolled in general physical education classes (a). When asked whether or not modifications were need to help the student s participate in the activities, 80% said no modifications were necessary. Furthermore, the students indicated that their favorite group sports included football, basketball, and baseball. Their favorite individual activities were swimming, wrestling, archery and walking. The fact that 80% of the students said they did not end modifications to engage in the various sports is a great reminder that just because a student has limited vision, does not mean he or she has limited athletic ability.



(c) “Students Who Are Blind Attitudes Toward Sighted Peers, General Phsycial Education Teachers, and Activities Offered Within Inclusive General Physical Education Classes.” Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. Washington: Mar 2005. Vol 76, Iss. 1; pg A 117, 2pgs.

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