Everything You Want to Know About Sports for the Blind

Sports for the blind have similar rules to their conventional counterparts. However, some have adaptations depending on the needs of the athlete. Do you recognize the ones below?
Everything You Want to Know About Sports for the Blind

Last update: 30 August, 2020

People are usually surprised at the Paralympic Games when it comes to blind sports. This is because most of us can’t understand how athletes can pass a baton, swim, or run without seeing. Here, we’ll tell you all about adapted sports for the blind and how they are practiced.

What are the sports for the blind?

The regular practice of physical exercise is fundamentally important for any person. In the case of the blind, exercise helps them increase their quality of life, socialize, compete in equal conditions, and make friends.

Blind people have a wide array of physical activities that they can do, even outside of competitions. Among the most common sports practiced by the blind, we want to note:

1. Sports for the blind: goalball

Goalball is the only sport specifically created for blind or reduced-vision people. In goalball, there are two teams of three players each, and the ball is equipped with bells to help the players detect its movement and location.

A German and an Austrian created this game for blind veterans of the Second World War. It’s been a part of the Paralympic Games since the Toronto Games in 1976, in the men’s category.

Women's Paralympic Goalball

The game is played in two 12-minute timed intervals, and the teams situate themselves on either side of the field. The objective is to throw the ball past the rival team’s goalie, as in soccer. Any of the members of the team can try to keep the ball from entering the goal.

2. Swimming

Swimming is one of the most popular sports in the Paralympic Games and was present in the very first edition, in Rome, in 1960. The athletes are grouped according to their level of ability and there’s a separate category for the blind. Each athlete uses dark goggles to block any light from entering.

Paralympic Blind Swimming

Blind swimmers have special trainers known as tappers positioned beside the pool. Their function is to give a light tap on the body of the swimmer to let them know that they’re arriving at the edge of the pool and they need to turn around.

In the last Olympic Games in Rio in 2016, swimmers first began using a swimmers cap called a blind cap. It’s equipped with a sensor that vibrates when the swimmer is about to arrive at the edge of the pool.

3. Sports for the blind: track

Track is one of the most widespread sports for the blind. It’s practiced in more than 70 countries and the competitions are organized according to the rulebook of the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA).

Paralympic Blind Running

In the Paralympic Games, blind athletes participate in category 11, while those with visual disabilities participate in categories 12 and 13. Some of the competitions are the 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, 1500 meters, the marathon, and the 4 x 100 relay.

4. Judo

Judo is one of the sports for the blind with the least amount of modifications in relation to the “conventional” discipline. The only adaptation is that the fighting begins with the athletes clinging to each other. If for some reason the judo athletes are released, the referee pauses the fight to put them back in contact with each other.

Another difference is the way that the referees communicate penalties. Instead of physical gestures, they use other techniques. In Paralympic judo, both blind athletes and athletes with visual impairments compete in the same category.

5. Soccer

There are two main categories for blind soccer. One is for players with visual deficiencies -B2/B3- who don’t need a lot of adaptations to be able to compete. It’s important that the color of the ball is in contrast to the floor, the background, the goal, and the lighting.

In the case of soccer for the blind -B1-, there are more modifications to the rules. It’s played in a smaller space, a soccer “room”, and has to meet the following requirements:

  • A ball that makes noise.
  • Guides behind the goals to orient the players.
  • Side fences to keep the ball from going out of bounds.
  • A sighted goalie (with limited maneuverability).
  • Absolute silence so that the players can communicate amongst themselves and avoid hits and disorienting.

More sports for the blind that you should know about

Finally, other sports for the blind are alpine ski, climbing, cycling, ten bowling, nine bowling, chess, cross-country ski, shot-put, weightlifting, archery, torball, and showdown. Have you ever watched one of these sports being played?

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