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ACCESS Sports Model

The ACCESS Sports model is a three-prong strategy for making physical education, sports, and recreation accessible to participants who are visually impaired. According to the Michigan Blind Athletic Association, by adjusting the targets, boundaries, and rules of nearly any activity, it can be adapted. The trick is to review every activity in terms of these areas and problem-solve ways to make them accessible. These changes are usually not high tech and expensive. In fact, the largest investment is often creativity.

The targets are usually balls, goals, hoops, nets, or other players. Often times they can be made accessible by adding a sound source such as bells in or on moving targets or beepers on stationary ones. Even a radio can be used to orient a visually impaired participant to the direction of the opposing team or goal. For partially sighted participants targets can be made more visible by marking them with brightly colored tape or sharply contrasting backgrounds. The idea is to make the targets just as perceptible to the visually impaired participants as they are to the sighted players.

Boundaries, like targets, can also be made more accessible by manipulating the colors and contrasts of the playing surface. Some examples of boundaries include: sidelines, foul lines, player areas, or lanes. Frequent modifications are: allowing the use of a double lane instead of a single one, making the visually impaired participant a stationary player, and marking all necessary lines with tactile indicators. Either nylon cord or clothesline can be used under regular gym tape to mark specific lines. When a game consists of several lines the marking can be creative such as solid lines, dotted lines, double lines or varied lengths. The side boundaries of fields or courts may also be marked by a surrounding fence or by suspending tape or cord at hip height. The key strategy here is to provide opportunities for player orientation without considerably slowing the pace of the activity and without creating a tripping hazard.

Making adaptations to the playing rules is the third area to examine when modifying an activity for people who are visually impaired. Frequently, these changes might include: extending time constraints, limiting physical interaction among players, shortening the distance to a target, decreasing the number of players, or even adjusting the scoring system. Another common rule adaptation is to blind-fold one player from the opposing team, or even blind-fold all participants. When modifying the playing rules there needs to be a balance of making it doable and fair for the visually impaired participant while at the same time keeping it fun and challenging for all participants.

All adaptations, whether to the rules, the targets, or the boundaries need to be made on a case-by-case basis. The participant's degree of vision loss and his specific eye disorder will guide the kinds of adaptations that will need to be made. In many cases, visually impaired individuals possess the same physical abilities as their sighted peers; they just accomplish the object of the game in a slightly different way.



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