Swimming: Tips for Swimmers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
Swimming can be an excellent sport for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. It has been practiced for many years by individuals of all ages, for competition, fitness, and fun. Swimming for exercise can be achieved through swim exercises, water aerobics, and lap swimming.
Lap Swimming and Water Aerobics After Vision Loss
- If you swim laps, count the number of strokes it takes to cover the length of the pool. This will help you slow down as you approach the end of your lane.
- A pool with ropes separating the lanes can help you remain within your own lane and maintain your orientation within the swimming area.
- Lap swimming can be adapted by using lane markers. These can be brightly colored flotation devices or swim ropes with flotation markers.
- Place a brightly colored marker, such as a beach towel, or an audio device, such as a radio or beeping transmitter, at the end of the lane to help with turns and orientation to the pool.
- Competitive swimmers with limited or no vision use a “tapper.” This is a knowledgeable and experienced sport guide who is trained to observe a swimmer’s strokes and “tap” the swimmer with a long pole to indicate the lane ending and the need to make a turn.
- Tappers are positioned at each end of the pool and use a rod with a firm foam tip to touch or tap the swimmer at the correct moment.
- Swim tappers must synchronize their tap with the swimmer’s stroke movement and momentum to enable the blind swimmer to swim at top speed without fear of colliding with the end of the pool. Tappers also help blind swimmers to execute a racing turn without losing time during a race.
- Water aerobics usually take place in a restricted area of the pool. Each participant is assigned a spot within the water aerobics area, which ensures a safer water exercise experience. You can also request a spot near the edge of the pool.
Swimming In Open Water
- For safety reasons, always swim with a partner or a group, especially in open water. When there are no boundaries to provide you with a line of direction, a sighted swimming partner is a must.
- In an emergency, swim in the direction of the waves, which will eventually take you to shore.
- Listen for sounds signaling the direction of land, such as people talking, dogs barking, or music. If you can see shapes and outlines, look for buildings, flags, or lights.
- Physical Education and Sports for People with Visual Impairments and Deafblindness by Lauren Lieberman, Paul E. Ponchillia, and Susan V. Ponchillia, Ed.D., provides practical information on techniques for adapting sports and other physical activities
- The Handicapped Scuba Association provides lessons and training in scuba diving to divers with a range of disabilities, including blindness and visual impairment