Physical Education, Recreation and Games for Students with Vision Impairments

Below you’ll find information about physical education and sport classes; activity concerns and possible solutions; competitive sports; recreational activities; camps and courses; holiday options; PE and sport equipment; and sources of information.

Physical Education and Sport Classes: Some Considerations

  • Even when the vision impaired student cannot participate fully, there is a social advantage in knowing about rules, equipment, terminology and team spirit of the popular team sports
  • Always give clear directions when describing an activity eg the bat is on the floor to your right
  • Be aware that many people with vision impairments have difficulties on bright sunny days – it may take some time for their vision to adjust when traveling between bright and dim environments
  • Avoid standing with a light source or window behind you when addressing the student
  • Read aloud when you are writing on the board and spell new words
  • Ask the vision impaired student to hand out materials and equipment – this will give her an opportunity to see who is in the class
  • Because the vision impaired student cannot see your smile of encouragement, be sure to offer verbal encouragement when she does well
  • Ensure that the student is well oriented to the area in which she is expected to move
  • Secure the student’s attention by using a whistle and or calling her name
  • Choose balls and other equipment that have good contrast for the student with low vision
  • A ball with a bell will assist participation for blind students
  • If the layout of the playground, oval or gymnasium is altered, point out these changes to your vision impaired student
  • Your vision impaired student may know the school environment very well but on excursions she may be less confident in her mobility skills and may need assistance from classmates or an adult
  • Include the vision impaired student in all class experiences – displays, jokes, visitors etc
  • Swap “buddies” if the situation is unpleasant for either student – they might become good friends another time
  • Don’t avoid “blind” and “seeing” words – blind people do “watch” TV and go to “see” a friend
  • If you are concerned about a blind or vision impaired student participating in a game, think carefully through the issues and the skills required. Often there is a simple solution which will allow inclusion

Activity concerns and possible solutions

  • Baseball/soccer – The activity uses large, open space and the playing object can escape. Decrease the playing area by using predictable boundaries. Use auditory devices on bases, beep balls and spotters.
  • Relays – There is an uneven number of vision impaired students and the activity requires that evenly matched teams compete. Blindfold an equal number of sighted students who have volunteered to play blindfolded OR determine evenly matched teams yourself as opposed to student captains selecting teams.
  • Some eye conditions can be aggravated by strenuous physical activity and contact sports. Teachers should check with parents and the visiting teacher for specific information.
  • Running tether – shoe laces or short lengths of rope make great tethers for running with a sighted partner. Use flat shoe laces tied in a loop so that there is just enough room for the guide and runner’s hand. This provides control to the guide and makes arm-swing timing much easier. There is also less risk of injury to both the guide and runner when using a short tether.
  • Events using a target: use an auditory signal behind or under the target such as a radio, hand clapping, a bell with a string
  • To delineate the playing area – use brightly coloured mats or tape
  • PMP and other skill-based activities – use contrasting surfaces and equipment eg contrasting mat under a balance beam.
  • Catching activities – use a bean bag instead of a ball OR bounce pass instead of tossing the ball
  • Virginia Reel and chasing games – where partners separate and locate each other again, use an auditory signal such as a clap or whistle to assist location
  • Throwing events – a block of wood held in the ground with tent pegs acts as a good toe board. The rest of the students in the class will also find this useful.
  • The activity area has limited boundaries – use carpet or rubber runners as markers.
  • Volleyball and other activities utilizing a net – decrease the playing area AND/OR modify the body position from upright and running to a safe position such as a crawl, walk or crab walk AND/OR require players to play in pairs.
  • Field hockey and soccer where one player is required to protect the goal – reduce the area of the goal AND/OR use a larger, softer ball AND/OR divide the goal area between two goalies
  • Trampolining – mark the centre of the trampoline with a bell attached to a small piece of thread.
  • Correction swimming goggles – take the goggles and prescription to your local optometrist who will be able to supply correction swimming goggles
  • Buddy systems, peer tutoring, and teacher aides – can be used effectively to assist in learning and participating in movement patterns, motor skills and sports activities
  • Prepare the student for the activity – eg practice performing the skill prior to its introduction to the class.
  • Tunnel ball – human version on the whistle the leader crawls through legs of team members. As a player “disappears” down the tunnel the next player starts to go through the tunnel.
  • Human chain – same as above only students twist in and out of team members as they move down the line.

Competitive sports

  • Australian Paralympic Committee – support to athletes with disabilities
  • Blind Sports Victoria – aims to assist people who have low vision or no vision to take part in a variety of sports. BSV organises and supports a wide variety of sports and recreation activities and Come n Try Days for cricket, lawn bowls, sailing, swimming, snow skiing, tamdem cycling, tennis and goal ball etc
  • Disability Sports Victoria – an umbrella organisation for sporting bodies responsible for helping people and athletes with disabilities
  • Goal Ball – a team sport is played by men and women at centres in Hawthorn, Brunswick, Lilydale and Ballarat. Contact Rob Crestani for the Melbourne-based competitions on (03) 9675 5854 or Ballarat on (03) 5339 1191.
  • International Blind Sports Association – skiing, archery, Judo, shooting, swimming and more
  • National Athletics Championships – conducted annually and is organised by the Victorian Blind Sports Association which can be contacted on (03) 9822 8876
  • Swish – contact Blind Sports
  • Victorian Blind Cricket– cricket is played by people with vision impairments each Saturday afternoon from October to March, at the Vision Australia’s Kooyong Centre. Six teams play regular competition, and practice sessions are held during the week. New players are always welcome. Contact: Murray Stewart on (03) 8791 9747.
  • Victorian Blind Sports Association – is the state parent sporting association currently representing the following sports: track & field, swimming, tandem cycling, goal ball, power lifting, golf, lawn and indoor bowls, sailing show skiing, indoor tennis, cricket and ten pin (skittles).
  • Videos by APH – the American Printing house for the Blind has compiled a great list of links for a range of competitive and non-competitive sports and recreational activities including archery, goalball, track & field, swimming etc
  • Vision Australia’s recreation and leisure services – phone 1300 84 74 66 for information regarding a variety of activities including:
    • Indoor tennis
    • Indoor soccer
    • Swish
    • Martial Arts
    • Goal Ball – which is now a Championship Event
    • Sailing – weekends at Albert Park. Information is also available about the World Blind Sailing Championships which is held in different parts of the world each year.
    • Tandem Cycling – now an Olympic sport
    • Triathlon – also an Olympic sport
    • Skiing days – cross country at Lake Mountain and downhill at Falls Creek.
    • Kangaroo Hoppit – a cross country ski carnival at Falls Creek
    • Swimming in the local community
    • Golf in the local community
    • Wrestling in the local community
    • Disabled Water Skiing Association

Recreational activities

  • Arts Access offers support for people with disabilities to access the arts and entertainment events. Discounted tickets to many major theatre and sporting events are available for people with disabilities and accompanying friends. Audio description which may also include a tour of the set may also be available for major performances (eg Melbourne Theatre Company). Arts Access publishes The Arts Access Guide and a number of other publications which offer information about performances, costs and access facilities.
  • In the Driver’s Seat – an opportunity for older students who are legally blind to drive
  • Tandem Bike Riding Club is a self-help group which encourages vision impaired bike riding enthusiasts to get together and share information about forthcoming events. Contact Alan Bates on (03) 9522 5222 (BH) or (03) 9523 7869 (AH). There are a small number of tandem bikes for hire from the Vision Australia, phone 1300 847466.
  • Riding for the Disabled is offered throughout Victoria. Contact the State Administrator on (03) 9372 2125. Instruction on how to ride and groom horses is also available at Sherbrooke Equestrian Centre, Wellington Road Clemantis 3782. Contact Anne Middleton on (03) 5968 4893.
  • VIBE Ski Club (Vision Impaired Blind and Everyone Ski Club) – provides the opportunity for blind and visin impaired people to enjoy the Victorian alpine area
  • Videos by APH – the American Printing house for the Blind has compiled a great list of links for a range of competitive and non-competitive sports and recreational activities including dancing, hiking, martial arts, rock climbing etc
  • Vision Australia’s recreation and leisure services – phone 1300 84 74 66 for information regarding a variety of activities

Camps and courses

  • Guide Dogs Victoria – the Children’s Mobility Services of Guide Dogs Victoria offer an annual camps and activities program for primary and secondary aged students
  • Outward Bound Australia – offers outdoor education programs with activities including camping, hiking, rafting, abseiling, caving and canoeing in wilderness settings.
  • SVRC Support Skills Program – a program conducted by the Statewide Vision Resource Centre focussing on the expanded core curriculum for students with vision impairments including sport and physical education classes – students take part in adapted sports and blindness specific sportts and games such as goalball and swish. Contact Garry Stinchcombe on (03) 9841 0242 for information about this program.
  • Space Camp – SCI-VIS is held annually in late September at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Each couple of years, a small group of students from Australia make the journey to join in the program which involves simulations and role plays in a space shuttle, the international space station and mission control.
  • Vision Australia – conducts residential camps for students during the school holidays. Contact VA on 1300 847466.

PE and sport equipment

Sources of information

  • Australian Paralympics
  • Blind Sports Victoria
  • Blind Sport New Zealand
  • Holidays, Travel & Accommodation Information for People with Disabilities – a comprehensive booklet with an array of information for holiday-makers
  • IBSA – information about playing sport internationally from the International Blind Sports Association
  • Looking into PE – the aim of the booklet, produced by Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), is to encourage the inclusion blind and partially sighted children into physical education classes. It provides guidelines for all those involved in any sports, leisure or outdoor pursuits which visually impaired children may participate in. The publication offers basic visual awareness training such as advice on adapting equipment, the need for extra planning and spending time familiarising the visually impaired student with their surroundings, and giving clear verbal descriptions and explanations. Safety issues are discussed and guidelines are set out for individual activities such as athletics, dance, games, gymnastics and swimming. There is also a section on including visually impaired children with additional disabilities. Priced at £3.50 “Looking Into PE” is available from RNIB Customer Services PO Box 173, Peterborough, PE2 6WS. Telephone 0345-023 153.
  • Popular Activities and Games for Blind, Visually Impaired and Disabled People – this book by Peter Rickards outlines over 50 games and activities which are suitable for one or more people with a vision impairment or other disabilities, and encourages participation as a family or within community groups. The equipment needed, rules, hints and diagrams are clearly laid out in a large print format.
  • The Ultimate Handbook – recreation and sport for people who are blind or vision impaired. Covering a wide variety of recreational activities, the handbook encourages people with vision loss and other disabilities to preserve their quality of life. The book is available in print, large print, audio and braille formats Phone (03) 9864 9237 for more information.
  • Victorian Blind Sports Association – a pamphlet outlining the range of sporting activities available to vision impaired people
  • Vision Australia – produce a number of publications which are free to those working with vision impaired people

For more information, please contact us.