Visually-Impaired Rockers Play Ball
July 5, 2022
Originally posted on Able News
By Jeremy Morak
For many people, summer and its long, warm days means playing outdoor sports.
But roughly 4 million Americans have been shut out from the fun because they have low vision. They had no choice but to sit on sidelines. Enter sports leagues and activities designed specifically for people who are blind and visually impaired.
Low vision is defined as a permanent loss of vision that cannot be improved with eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery. It makes everyday tasks more challenging. For people who are living with low vision and also want to be active, finding activities that are accessible could be challenging – until recently.
Adaptive Blind Baseball helps people with low vision step up to the plate. Based on traditional baseball rules, players still run, hit and play the field, but no sight is required. Using specially designed balls with bells in them, players are able to use audible cues to play.
A play begins when a batter drops the ball with one hand and swings with his or her free hand. Sighted volunteers use clappers and horns to help players navigate the bases. Fielders then carefully listen to the bells to find the ball and make a play.
This sport, which began in Italy in 2015, is quickly gaining popularity around the world, including the United States. One team based in New York, The Rockers, even competed internationally in 2019. The team practices weekly in Central Park and hopes to compete again this fall.
In April, the Rockers held a special clinic for members of Lighthouse Guild’s Teen Program – a group comprised of teenagers with varying degrees of visual impairment. The goal was to teach the teens about accessible sports and give them an opportunity to try a new activity in a forum where vision is not needed. The teens practiced running, fielding and batting, while learning about inclusion in sports.
One Rockers team member, Ed Plumacher, Adaptive Technology Specialist at Lighthouse Guild, has continued to live an active life even as his functional vision has decreased over the years.
“Participating in adaptive sports has helped me overcome many of the challenges and pitfalls associated with vision loss,” said Plumacher. He went on to discuss the importance of community and competition. “Apart from the physical benefits of being active, being part of a team and the challenge of competition helps you regain confidence, stamina and inspires you to push the limits of your perceived boundaries and inspires you to take on and master new challenges.”
In addition to Adaptive Blind Baseball, there are other groups that promote accessible sports for the visually impaired community that include running, goalball, skiing, canoeing, biking, martial arts, and more.
Jeremy Morak, is a Marketing Specialist at Lighthouse Guild. For more information about Lighthouse Guild, one may visit www.Lighthouseguild.org.