Did You Know?
Did you know there are an estimated 52,000 school-aged children who are blind or have visual impairments in the United States, of whom nearly 70% do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum? The barriers that these youths face are primarily the consequences of transitioning from residential schools, where physical educators deliver specialized services in relatively small classes to public schools, where educators have less knowledge, time and resources with which to apply to students who are visually impaired. Other barriers include:
- prejudicial attitudes that persons who are blind or visually impaired cannot participate in sports;
- lack of knowledge, tools, and equipment necessary to provide adaptive physical education;
- child’s lack of skill development which, in turn, affects confidence and willingness to participate in unfamiliar athletic activity;
- there is no one on one instruction due to large public school classes and community programs such as exercise and yoga class. Often times the instructor gives visual instructions that leave the blind individual feeling lost or excluded and not getting anything from the program.
Just as those that are sighted, individuals that are blind or visually impaired deserve the same opportunities to learn leadership and teamwork and to gain self-esteem and confidence through sports.
Recent research compiled by the U.S. Department of Education shows that recreation and sports activities provide persons with disabilities the opportunity to increase mobility, independence, and socialization. Studies also indicate that athletic activity is influential in preventing a decline in physical, cognitive and psychosocial functioning. All of these issues have been demonstrated to be frequent consequences felt by individuals with disabilities who lead sedentary lifestyles. In addition, research has demonstrated that youth involvement in athletics results in higher Grade Point Averages, better time management skills, and improved performance on standardized tests.
The benefits of sports and recreation have also been shown to continue from adolescence to adulthood. A recent survey of the USABA members revealed not only did they benefit academically from their involvement in sports during elementary through high school, but 57% of USABA members continued on to higher education pursuing college degrees. This percentage more than doubles the national average of 23% for their peers with visual impairments. USABA members also beat the national unemployment rate, reporting only 35% compared to the national average of 70%.