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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Lesson 17: Recreation: A Must in Everyone's Life

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woman and teenage granddaughters playing scrabble

Pastimes, hobbies, and personal interests are enjoyed and valued by people with visual impairments and are as varied as the individuals themselves. Almost any recreational activity you can think of has been or can be adapted for a visual impairment. For example, if you once enjoyed golf, skiing, bowling, or swimming, these sports are still accessible with very few modifications. Pottery, knitting and crocheting, ceramics, and woodworking are crafts enjoyed daily by many people who are blind or have low vision. Before your vision loss, you may have spent Friday afternoons playing bridge or some other card or board game at the nearby senior center. Get ready to rejoin the group!

Recreation is a must in everyone’s life, and that includes you. Sports, hobbies, games, physical activities, and other indoor and outdoor recreational activities offer endless benefits to your health and sense of well-being. Perhaps the most valuable benefit of recreational activities is the opportunity to interact socially with a diverse group of individuals.

Lesson Goals

  • Access books, magazines, newspapers, and other materials in a variety of audio formats;
  • Join family and friends in playing cards, checkers, dominoes, Scrabble, Jenga, and other games with or without adaptations;
  • Participate in favorite hobbies such as pottery, knitting, woodworking, gardening, genealogy, and coin collecting with or without adaptations;
  • Take part in sports like golf, skiing, bowling, swimming, and baseball competitively or as a spectator;
  • Enjoy outdoor recreation such as hiking, camping, sailing, biking, fishing, and bird watching alone or with others;
  • Improve your physical and mental wellness through exercise, dance, yoga, and volunteering alone or with others.

Click here to review the learning checks before reading the lesson.

Accessible Reading Options

The National Library Service Talking Book digital player.

Most people probably are not aware that phonograph records were created specifically to provide recorded books for people who were blind and couldn’t read print. Today, audiobooks can be heard through a new generation of listening devices and are an increasingly popular reading option for both visually impaired and sighted audiences. Almost any popular novel, nonfiction book, general interest publication, trade magazine, or newspaper is available in a variety of accessible audio formats.  

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS)

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is a network of cooperating libraries similar to your local library except it distributes recorded books to people with visual or other disabilities that prevent them from using regular print books. Books known as Talking Books are loaned through the NLS program and mailed free. Each book is recorded on a special cartridge and played on a special reading machine, which is also loaned free of charge by the NLS. Talking Books can also be downloaded from the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) website and played on the Talking Book digital player via a USB thumb drive or complete portable player.

Most states have a Talking Book Library that distributes the players and books. You may be assigned to a "reader consultant" who can help you learn how to order books and how to use BARD. The player comes with instructions, but each button on the player, if pressed without a cartridge inserted in the device, will announce its function. The books come in a special container approximately 4 by 4 by 1 inches. On the front is a card with your address; on the back is the address of the Talking Book library. To return the book, turn the card over, and the book will be ready to mail.

To apply for this service, call 800-424-8567 or visit your local library.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and the Talking Book Library. 

Kindle Audio Adapter

Over time, Amazon has realized that as Kindle users age and their vision decreases, many may want to use the Audio Adapter so they can continue reading with the same device they have always used. In addition, some visually impaired readers want a single device that will read a book and nothing else.

Audio Players Designed for People with Visual Impairments

There are several players designed specifically for people with vision loss that do not require the use of visual prompts. Instead, these devices are operated with audio prompts easy-to-use keys.

Victor Reader Stream

One of the more popular devices, the Victor Reader Stream (VR Stream), sold by HumanWare, is about the size of a deck of cards. It features text-to-speech capabilities and digital audio support. With the VR Stream, you can read electronic files with synthetic speech or digitally recorded books with human speech. For example, it plays books in a variety of digital formats including Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic), Talking Books from NLS, and Bookshare. It will also play your favorite downloaded music.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on the different digital formats available for the VR Stream.  

Five Reading Apps for Book Lovers

Electronic access to print material and books specifically has changed the way readers of all abilities read. Devices like the iPad and Kindle Fire have increased the ease of access to printed material and increased the availability of new publications for people with vision loss. Electronic text lets the low vision reader enlarge the print by increasing the font size or using screen magnification on his or her device. The reader unable to read print can use a screen reading software like Apple's VoiceOver and text read aloud by a synthesized voice.

If reading your favorite newspaper is the way you like to begin your day, then try the NFB-Newsline.  

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on reading apps.

Playing Games with Family, Friends, or All-By-Yourself

Playing games with friends or family is a popular pastime. Getting together with a few friends for a potluck and an evening of canasta, dominoes, Wits & Wagers, or trivia can alleviate stress, release calming endorphins, and provide a social outlet for everyone. A game of Scrabble, chess, or dominoes between a grandfather and his granddaughter can create memories and strengthen bonds. The weekly afternoon card games hosted by the local Senior Center provide a social outlet, an opportunity for healthy competition, and a place to develop new friendships. Perhaps at one time you participated in all of these activities, but now that you have difficulty seeing the cards or the Scrabble letters, or the game board, you shy away from these events. There's good news for you!

Adapt Your Own Games

Many games have been adapted for people with limited or no vision. Stores specializing in products for seniors or people with visual impairments offer large print playing cards and bingo cards. There are Scrabble and checkers boards with raised edges around each square that the pieces lock into. Monopoly, Chinese checkers, and other games have versions adapted for people who are blind. Some of these games are expensive, so before you buy them, think about how you might adapt your own games. Many games need very few adaptations to be accessible. A Cribbage board can be adapted for low vision by outlining the peg holes with a contrasting color. If you love dominoes, buy white Dominoes with raised black dots and play on a dark surface. Low vision players can see the outline of the dominoes and tell where to add on; blind players can feel the raised dots and know where to play. Some games like Mancala or Jenga do not need adaptations to play with a visual impairment.

Consider Braille Cards

If your thing is playing cards—Bridge with your Bridge Club, Hearts with your grandchildren, canasta at the Senior Center, and deer-in-the-headlights after the potluck—but you can't see even the large print cards without magnification, try a magnifier that hangs around your neck and rests on your chest. Play with the large print cards and hold them under the lens. Using your best assertiveness skills, ask others to call out the cards as they play. If the magnifier doesn’t help, then seriously consider learning enough braille to play cards. Learning 15 symbols is all that's necessary to play any card game you want. It may take a little time, but it's worth it in order to continue having fun!

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on adapting cards and games after vision loss. 

On Your Own

If you enjoy competing against yourself, some bookstores and the specialty stores sell large print Sudoku and crossword puzzle books. There are special jigsaw puzzles with larger pieces that are easier to see and lock in place, especially if you have arthritis or mild tremors.

Games Online

If you can access the Internet, you might enjoy free games from a website called blind gamers online. There are several popular games available on Blind Gamers such as Sudoku, solitaire, Uno, chess, and Boggle. Many other websites like this one offer games adapted for visually impaired seniors.

Now it's time to host your own game night for several special friends you feel comfortable with. Adapt some of your own games or purchase some large print cards. If you aren't quite ready to try the adapted games, play a game like Wits & Wagers or Outburst that requires only one sighted person or someone with low vision using a magnifier to read the game questions. Remember, the real purpose of playing games is having fun with friends and family!

Your Hobby, More Than a Pastime

For most people, their hobbies like pottery, knitting, raised-bed gardening, genealogy, collecting rare coins or baseball cards, and making flower boxes in the woodshop are a way of expressing their inner selves and gaining a sense of achievement. It's important for you to know that everything listed here, and probably your hobby too, is enjoyed by people with visual impairments. Needless to say, there is not enough space in this lesson to describe the adaptive techniques for more than a few activities, but you can find resources for almost anything you want to pursue.

Knitting and Crocheting

A woman knitting

If you have experience as a knitter but have hesitated to continue, here are a few suggestions that can help:

  • Switch to larger needles and/or thicker yarn. This will make it easier to count stitches and check your pattern.
  • Use multicolored yarn to avoid changing colors until you gain confidence as a visually impaired knitter.
  • Create your instructions in a font you can read or enlarge them on a copier, record them, or use magnification. Some of the specialty companies carry large print knitting and crocheting pattern books.
  • Work with your fingers close to the tips of the needles. It will be easier to tell if you've dropped a stitch or left one unadded.
  • Identify stitches by the location of the loops. The loops of "knit" stitches are on the side away from you, and the loops of "pearl" stitches are on the side closest to you.
  • Keep count of rows or stitches by dropping a penny, small button, or bead into a container as each row is completed. You might want to purchase a simple abacus to help with counting.
  • Keep your yarn in some type of container, such as a can that has a plastic lid. Make a 1-inch hole in the center of the lid and thread one end of the yarn through the center to prevent it from rolling away or getting tangled.
  • Put rubber bands on the tips of your needles to keep stitches from falling off when you're not working on a project.

Revisit Lesson 9 for ideas for labeling and organizing your yarn and needles.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on knitting and crocheting.

Genealogy

If vision loss caused you to stop exploring your genealogy, then you will find Lesson 19 very exciting. Many visually impaired people spend hours researching their ancestry online. You might want to get involved with a genealogy group for people who are visually impaired.

Woodworking

If woodworking has been your hobby or you've built a deck on your home or remodeled your kitchen in the past, don't think you must quit using your power tools just because you are losing your vision. Many low vision and totally blind woodworkers safely perform these skills on a daily basis. Below are a number of resources that can help you continue this rewarding pastime.

You may already have many of the tools that you need for woodworking, but you will need measuring tools that are modified for people with vision loss. You can also learn techniques for modifying some of your tools, especially power tools, from experienced visually impaired woodworkers.

Some state and private rehabilitation centers and veteran's administration rehabilitation centers offer woodworking training for blind and visually impaired persons as part of the rehabilitation curriculum.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on woodworking and using tools as an individual who is blind or visually impaired.

There are also woodworking reference books and audio recordings of woodworking publications exclusively for the use of individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on woodworking resources. 

Gardening

A woman in a wheelchair outside working in a raised garden

Did you know that the French painter Monet was an avid gardener? He loved flowers almost as much as painting, and even when he lost most of his vision, he did not stop painting or gardening. Your visual impairment does not have to spoil your gardening pleasure either.

Here are a few helpful tips:

  • Raised beds and containers create boundaries to work within and make it easy to reach the soil and plants.
  • Select tools that are durable but lightweight. Brightly colored handles make them easier to see if you have low vision.
  • Eke garden trowels have engraved markings to indicate soil depth, making it easier to determine how deep to plant bulbs and transplants.
  • Keep both hands free by carrying your tools in your carpenter's apron from your toolbox or get a gardener's apron.
  • Plant vegetables in a row with the plants evenly spaced. Stake a rope across each row. Tie evenly spaced knots in each rope and plant each seed or transplant at each knot. Any plant not along the line is probably a weed.
  • Seed tapes laid in a row are also good for maintaining rows. The tape will eventually dissolve, and your plants will be evenly spaced in a row.
  • Plants not organized in rows should be labeled for future identification if they are not familiar to you.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on gardening with vision loss.  

Sports As a Competitor or Spectator

If you are a sports enthusiast, you may find this section encouraging. Every two years, blind athletes from around the world compete in many different sports venues in the Paralympics. In the 2016 summer games in Brazil, three blind runners in the Paralympics beat the finishing times of the sighted runners who won metals in the same event in the regular Olympics. There are many organizations that support blind athletes in golf, skiing, bowling, swimming, track and field, and more. There are even two sports—beep baseball and goalball—designed specifically for blind athletes.  

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on sports with visual impairment.   

older man bowling

Bowling

If you want to see the competitive nature of a group of seniors emerge, take them to the bowling alley. It requires little or no adaptation to become or remain a good bowler. Many bowling alleys have a portable guide rail that you can hold onto to help you with your approach and delivery, guiding you straight toward the pins. If you are on a team or a frequent bowler, you may want to purchase your own lightweight guide rail that can be easily assembled and stored. Some bowling alleys will let you use color contrasting sports tape and thin rope to create a long thin raised line down the center of the approach of a lane to ensure you are walking in a straight line toward the lane. This allows you to move both your arms and legs during your approach. Some people like to use a sighted guide to help them line up where they want to execute their delivery. Some bowling alleys also have a ramp for folks who have difficulty bending over to throw a ball.

A print copy of a chart showing the pin set-up can be helpful, especially if you are competitive. After you throw the first ball of each frame, a sighted person or someone with low vision who uses a monocular can use the chart to point out which pins are still standing. This helps you strategize where to throw the next ball for best results. If you aren't bowling in a league, you may want the bowling alley to set up gutter bumpers.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on bowling with vision loss.     

Golf

Picture of older golfer with vision loss swing a golf club

Blind golf is a very popular sport, as evidenced by the number of many outstanding blind golfers playing the game around the world. The obvious question is: How can you play golf when you can't see to hit the ball and can't see where it's going or landing?

The adaptation allowed for blind golfers is the limited assistance of a sighted coach.

The primary duty of the coach is to help line the blind player up with the upcoming hole and help place the club directly behind the ball so the blind person knows where the ball is and which direction to hit it. Much like the caddy in regulation golf, the coach is permitted to describe the characteristics of the hole, where hazards lie, the slope of the fairway or green, and areas the golfer should try to avoid. (Some golf instructors think that blind golfers don't need to know about hazards. They believe this information is an unnecessary distraction.) Once the coach has lined up the shot for the blind golfer, the actual execution of the shot is completely up to the golfer. There is only one other rule change in competitive blind golf tournaments—getting the ball out of a bunker.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for a personal story of a professional golfer who is visually impaired.

Skiing Alpine or Cross-Country

Alpine downhill skiing provides one of the rare opportunities for a blind person to move freely and independently, experiencing the exhilaration of speed through time and space. Cross-country skiing generally occurs on smaller slopes and hills than does downhill but is equally challenging. To safely meet these challenges, visually impaired skiers use a guide who describes the surroundings, chooses the line of descent, and provides verbal instructions to the skier. If the terrain has wide slopes and few obstacles, the guide may follow the skier, providing verbal descriptions and instructions. At other times, the skier will follow the outline of the guide's body and movements as the guide provides orientation through verbal instructions. A lightweight portable amplification system can help the guide and skier stay in close communication.

For both downhill and cross-country skiers:

  • Enroll in a "learn to ski" clinic for beginners or for persons returning to the sport with a visual impairment.
  • Use properly fitted ski equipment and clothing. Many ski resorts or clinics offer equipment for rent.
  • Ask your eye doctor about lenses or goggles that can help reduce glare when skiing. Lenses can be tinted in a range of colors to decrease various wavelengths of light that can cause glare.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on skiing and cross-country skiing for individuals who are visually impaired.

Beep Baseball

The National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA) was organized in 1976 for visually impaired adults to play baseball. Each year, the NBBA coordinates local, state, and regional tournaments. In August of each year, the NBBA sponsors a national and international invitational tournament called the World Series of Beep Baseball.

Beep baseball is played on a grassy field with six fielders—first baseman, third baseman (there isn't a second base), short stop, left and right fielders, and center. Fielders and batter are blindfolded. The other four participants—pitcher, catcher, and two spotters—are usually sighted. The sighted spotters are out in the field and call out a number indicating what part of the field the ball is traveling toward. The middle of the outfield is number six, and each side (left and right) is numbered one through five in a mirrored pattern. The left field spotter calls for left field and the right field spotter for the right. Each game is six innings unless there is a tied game at the end of inning six.

Beep baseball is different than regular baseball. For example, the pitcher pitches to his own teammates and throws the ball in such a way to help the batter hit a homerun. (The equipment includes an oversized softball with an embedded beeper. Just as the pitcher throws the ball, he or she pulls a pin from the ball, activating the beeper.) The bases emit buzzing sounds to orient runners.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information and rules about the game of beep baseball. 

Goalball

Goalball is a team sport created specifically for blind people in 1946 to help with the rehabilitation of World War II veterans. Today, there are male and female goalball teams all over the world playing competitively and for "the gold" in the Paralympics. This may surprise you, but to play on a competitive goalball team, you must be completely blind or at least have low vision. During a game, all players on the court must wear a blindfold even if they are totally blind. This levels the playing field between low vision and totally blind athletes.

Goalball is played on a court similar to a basketball court, using a ball slightly larger than a basketball that contains bells so the athletes can hear the ball. Each team has three players on the court at a time strategically placed at opposite ends of the court. The ball is pitched out on the floor like a bowling ball toward the opposing team's end of the court. The opposing team protects their end by stopping the ball with their bodies—torso, hands, feet, legs, etc. If the ball goes over the goal line into the end zone, the offensive team gets a point.

When the ball is "put into play," the defensive team goes into the defense mode on their knees. If necessary, they will throw their whole body in front of the ball to stop it. Balls can move at 35 miles per hour or even faster. Some Olympic athletes can throw the ball over 45 miles per hour. Because the players are protecting their end zone with every part of their bodies, they wear a lot of protective gear—knee pads, elbow pads, chest protectors, and sometimes even a face mask.

Because the players depend on their hearing to locate the position of the ball and defend their end zone, spectators must be completely silent during play. In other words, there's no cheering when your team scores!

Hopefully, this explanation of goalball will not chase you off. Remember, this description is based on an Olympic level of competition. Goalball can be lots of fun at a much slower pace if you’re not afraid of getting a bruise now and then. However, if you decide to join a team, discuss it with your eye care physician first. People with glaucoma or at risk for detached retinas should not participate in goalball.

Sports As a Spectator

If you are an avid sports fan, then you know that you don't have to be a great athlete to enjoy a baseball, basketball, football, soccer, or hockey! Since losing your vision, have you been to see your favorite team play? If so, what kind of accommodations did you make in order to enjoy the game to the fullest? If you still have some usable vision, did you take binoculars or a monocular to watch the field or court? Did you choose seats so you could see the maximum amount of the field or court? Did a companion describe all of the action for you or did you take a radio and earphones or use apps on your smartphone to listen to the play-by-play? All of these suggestions are possibilities, but you need to plan ahead to make sure you have a wonderful, enjoyable experience with an extremely visual activity.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) in England has joined with Access Audio to make sure every soccer and rugby stadium has state-of-the-art equipment for broadcasting descriptive audio to people who are blind or have low vision. According to spectators who have used the equipment, the system provides "superb reception." These systems are fully portable and can be moved from one venue to another.

Although accessibility in sports venues is not as available in the U.S. as it is in England, some of the larger arenas such as American Airline Center in Dallas, Texas, do use an internal radio frequency to allow spectators to listen to the audio of the television feed on a portable radio. If your favorite sports arena or stadium does not provide accommodation, here's another opportunity to use your best friendly assertiveness skills to teach the arena or stadium administration what is needed to ensure that all fans enjoy the games equally.

Outdoor Recreation

You need not go very far from your back door to enjoy the fun of outdoor recreation.

Horseshoes

A rousing game of horseshoes in your own backyard can quickly lift the spirits of a group of avid horseshoe players. Color contrast and a sound source can make horseshoes almost as much fun as ever. Look for a set of horseshoes that are rubber coated and larger than a standard set. To make the horseshoes easier to see, wrap some yellow tape around one pair and another bright color such as orange around the other pair. Do something similar to make the stobs easier to see. If your vision is not sufficient to see the stob you are throwing at, place a sound source a short distance behind the stob. It needs to be close enough that you don't over shoot your target, but not so close that it prevents you from getting a ringer!

Bicycling

You may remember a very old, silly song called "A Bicycle Built for Two." These days that bicycle is a very popular way of enjoying the outdoors. There are tour groups that arrange trips for people who like to vacation on their tandem bicycles.  

If you love riding for miles on your bike, but don't feel safe on the road since losing your vision, try a tandem. You will still get a great workout, you can maintain good speed, and you don't need to worry about a gas-propelled vehicle coming between you and your riding partner. Usually, the sighted member of the team (the pilot) sits on the front seat of the bike and communicates what's ahead. Your partner can also provide information about surface changes, obstacles, turns, upcoming hills, and when to brake. There may be times you'd like to have "audio description" about the scenery from your riding partner. Ask your pilot to make that part of his or her responsibilities!

The visually impaired cyclist usually sits in the back seat and is called "the stoker." You don't have the responsibility of steering, but if you want to get very far, you'd best not shirk your duty of helping to pedal. It takes some coordinating to ride the same bike with another cyclist, so before you take off on a big adventure, it's best to get some practice on quiet, straight roads with limited inclines. Of course, safety requires the same gear as riding solo.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on tandem bicycling. 

Fishing

Fishing is a good pastime for anyone, regardless of how much sight you might have. It is a relaxing, healthy, and affordable hobby, and is accessible to all.

If you fish in calm waters, you may not need a device that lets you know there is a fish on the line. Learn through touch when a fish is pulling on your line. Pay attention to how your pole feels when there isn’t a fish on your line. Ask your fishing buddy to watch and tell you when your bobber goes under so you will begin to recognize how your pole reacts when there's a fish after your bate. It doesn't hurt to jerk on your pole if you think there's a fish. You may recall doing that when you had good vision.

  • There are a few items you can prepare at home before you go fishing.
  • Examine your equipment carefully. Get the feel of how everything works.
  • Keep your tackle to a minimum and keep it well organized.
  • Tie set-ups in advance that you will use.
  • Practice, if possible, putting on the kind of bait or lures you plan to use.
  • Make sure you have a visor or hat, your magnification devices, and good UV sunshades.
  • Check out catalogs and angler shops for devices that you might find helpful.

At the fishing site, get familiar with the environment so you can stay mobile but safe. Have another fisherman spot you when you cast. Always be aware of the location of your hook when it’s not in the water.

In many parts of the U.S., groups and individuals offer fishing events for people who are blind. Check out what’s available in your region. The American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind, as well as Lions Clubs and other service organizations in your area, may sponsor special fishing trips for visually impaired people who love to fish.

If you are legally blind, you are entitled to a free fishing license. However, you will need a signature from your eye doctor. Request an application through the Department of Fish and Game. The licenses are not available at stores that sell regular fishing licenses. It will take some time to complete the process, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

Take a Hike

The word "hiking" conjures up expectations of an adventure, whether it’s wandering a path of pine needles through the woods in the spring or a trek along a creek or lake in the heart of a busy city. Hiking, no matter where you are, seems to relieve stress, relax the mind, and bring a sense of refreshment to your inner being. The beauty of hiking is that its enjoyment is not limited to people with sight. In fact, people who are visually impaired can enjoy a plethora of sounds, smells, and textures as they explore the hiking environment without the distraction of visual information. Count how many different bird songs you hear. Listen for a gurgling stream or waterfall in the distance. Feel the air on your face, the pine needles underfoot, the bark of a birch tree, or giant knee of a cypress in the creek. In the spring, all the flowering bushes, plants, and trees can make your nose twitch.

Getting ready for these hiking adventures includes planning for precautions. It's safer if you hike with another person and probably better that the person is sighted unless you limit your hiking to paved or graveled trails. Some of the most enjoyable trails can have logs across the path and uneven rocky stretches. If you are a cane user, it is recommended that you use your cane in one hand and hold onto one end of a short rope in the other hand with your partner holding the other end. Both tools will help you navigate changing elevations and rough terrain. With your white cane, you can detect a hole in the middle of the trail or avoid stumbling over a large tree root. Your cane may detect an obstacle in the trail that your partner doesn't see. If you hike a lot, consider a pair of hiking sticks that are more sturdy than the white cane and have spikes on the end to help with unsure footing when traveling along uneven paths. You don't want to forget to carry your hiking water bottle and your phone for emergencies, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a small first aid kit.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on walking and hiking after vision loss. 

Birding By Ear

Retired biologist Jerry Krummrich once challenged himself to become skilled at identifying birds by voice. “I recognized how much more enjoyment was to be obtained by knowing bird songs and calls because we hear so many more calls than we are able to see birds in the bushes and trees.” Birding can be done from your own back porch or patio or on a hike through the woods. If you are blind, singing birds in the morning are one way to know that the sun is rising.

If you are an avid hiker, adding birding to your hiking activities can enrich your hikes. Hadley School for the Blind offers a birding course for people with visual impairments. Tell them where you live, and they send the course that teaches the songs and calls of birds native to your area. You can join the Audubon Society and get credit for identifying birds by their songs. This is the same credit that sighted people get for visually identifying different species of birds.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on courses available through Hadley School for the Blind and how you can join the Audubon Society.  

Camping

In the past, you may have loved or hated going to a campground, pitching your tent, setting up your food supply like Fort Knox to protect it from the critters whose home you've invaded, and heading off to the creek or lake to go fishing. This is certainly still doable with a visual impairment and, honestly, it takes very little adaptation because you probably won't be going alone and at least a few of the folks you go with will have vision. What you may need to do differently is organize everything more carefully than in the past and do a better job keeping track of everything. Food containers should be labeled for quicker access. If you plan a menu and put all items together by meal, you can eliminate rummaging through containers looking for the things you need. Some of the other topics discussed in this lesson can be added to the enjoyment of the camping experience. For example, bring adapted games the group likes to play, go hiking, and birding.

In addition to standard camping with friends, there are camps created just for people who are blind where a wide variety of activities are available. Accessible retreats are also available.

Individuals who are legally blind are also eligible for a free access pass for all federal recreation sites. This pass gives you and three other adults free admission to all U.S. national parks, and the pass is good for life. You’ll just need a physician’s statement or other document to verify your visual impairment. Contact the National Park Service for details or to apply.

See the VisionAware Resources list at the end of the lesson for more information on camping as an individual who is blind or visually impaired.   

Exercise and Movement

You can decrease your stress and increase your concentration, energy, physical flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance by spending just 10 minutes on physical activity per day. Anything that gets you moving will have benefits, and once you start to feel results, you will be motivated to add another 10-minute time block of physical activity. You don't have to go to the gym or participate in some type of programmed activity, although these are very good choices if you can take part in them. Some normal daily activities can provide enough physical activity to improve your overall physical fitness—digging in the garden, scrubbing the bathtub, walking up and down the stairs in your house or independent living complex, or doing a few squats or touching your toes a few times next to your computer. If you'd like a planned activity without going to the gym, try out yoga or Pilates with "eyes free fitness" audio instruction from Blind Alive.

If you are currently sedentary, it's very important that you talk with your medical doctor before beginning an exercise regimen. You will want to discuss your eye condition as well as your physical condition because there are certain types of exercises that should be avoided if you have glaucoma or other retinal diseases.

Right now, you are starting to think this is a good time to explore new ways to get moving and maybe even commit to an exercise plan. But you may still think that it's just not possible for you with a visual impairment. Keep in mind, you are going to start with 10 minutes each day, and keep reminding yourself that no matter your age, size, or physical condition, you need it. Not only are exercise and healthy eating the most effective means of protecting your body against chronic diseases, but they are the primary ways to building a strong body and ensuring a long active life.

Exercise doesn't have to be weight lifting and running four miles an hour on the treadmill. Beneficial exercise can simply be fun and expressive. Dancing in your living room to your favorite music, meditating while you practice yoga, or walking with a friend at the mall will get your body moving, your blood flowing, and your energy going. Once you see progress in physical flexibility and stamina, add in activities—one at a time—to continue strengthening muscles, increasing endurance and stamina, improving flexibility and balance, firming the body and managing weight.


Learning Checks

Which of the following statements about the National Library Services Talking Book Program is false?

  1. Talking Books are designed specifically for people with visual impairments or other disabilities that prevent them from reading regular print books
  2. There is an annual charge for using this service
  3. Books come on special cartridges that are played on a special machine
  4. Books are mailed for free in special containers

Answer: b

If you have low vision or no vision which of the following games would be accessible for you?

  1. White dominoes with black dots played on a dark background
  2. Checkers with a felt dot on the top of the black checkers, and a felt dot in the center of each square
  3. Mancala
  4. All of the above

Answer: d

If you were an avid woodworker before losing your vision, getting tips from experienced blind woodworkers may be of interest to you. Which of the following would be the least helpful resource to you?

  1. Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired
  2. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Talking Book Program
  3. Woodworking for the Blind, Inc.
  4. Courses at a local college or senior center

Answer: d

Several techniques were recommended for maintaining a straight line of approach and delivery when bowling. Which of the following was not recommended?

  1. Keeping your eyes focused on the pins
  2. Trailing along a portable guide rail
  3. Using a sighted guide
  4. Following a rope taped to the floor in the center of the approach to the lane

Answer: a

Two sports designed specifically for blind athletes are Beep Baseball and Goalball. Which of the following rules of Beep Baseball are very different than traditional baseball?

  1. It holds an annual World Series
  2. Fielders and batter are blindfolded
  3. Pitcher pitches to his own teammates
  4. The batter runs to the beeping base

Answers: b, c, and d

Goalball, like Beep Baseball, has some unusual rules for athletes who play competitively. Select two.

  1. All players wear special protective gear
  2. All players whether blind or low vision must wear a blindfold
  3. Each team has three players on the floor during play
  4. Fans may not cheer when their team scores a point

Answers: b and d

Click here to return to the beginning of the lesson.


VisionAware Resources

The following links will take you to VisionAware online resources that support this lesson. Please be advised that information in these links may go beyond the scope of this lesson or this course.

Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

NLS Digital Talking Book Training Program for Network Libraries

Victor Reader Stream by HumanWare

Learning Ally (Formerly Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic)

Bookshare, A Benetech Initiative

Reading Apps for Booklovers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Playing Cards and Games After Vision Loss

Knitting and Crocheting with Vision Loss

Guide to Woodworking and Using Tools for Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Woodworking Resources: Reference Books, Publications, and Other Resources

Gardening for Individuals with Visual Impairment

Sports and Exercise with Visual Impairment

Bowling for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Personal Story of Professional Golfer Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Skiing for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Tips for Cross-Country Skiing with Visual Impairment

The National Beep Baseball Association: About the Game of Beep Baseball

Tandem Bicycling: Tips for Cyclists Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Takes Two to Tandem: Tandem Bicycling for Individuals with Vision Loss  

Walking and Hiking After Vision Loss

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Audubon Society  

Summer Camp Experience for Campers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Blind Alive: "Eyes Free Fitness" Audio Instruction


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