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VISIONS Newsletter
Sports and leisure through the eyes of individuals who are blind or visually impaired.


SV Launches Monthly Recreation Program

     Club SportsVision is SV’s monthly recreation program designed to provide on-going sports and leisure activities for Western PA’s blind and visually impaired youth. The program will offer accessible opportunities once each month. Siblings, friends, and parents are welcome at all Club SportsVision events to promote inclusion. Club SportsVision will enable participants to develop friendships, become physically active, and enhance their social skills.

     Club SportsVision launches on Saturday, March 11, 2006 with an Audio Dart and Game Extravaganza. From 10 a.m. until Noon, visually impaired youth and their friends and family will throw soft-tip darts at talking dartboards and play their favorite indoor games. This FREE event will be held at the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living located at 900 Rebecca Avenue in Wilkinsburg.

     The second Club SportsVision event will be a Bowl-a-thon on Sunday, April 2, 2006 from 1-4 p.m. Bowlers will roll three games using guide rails for the blind. All are welcome to attend at $7 per SportsVision youth (under 18) and $10 per adult. IT WILL TAKE PLACE AT forward Lanes located at 5844 Forward Avenue in Squirrel Hill. This activity will give SV youth the opportunity to meet and learn from many blind adults.

     Future Club SportsVision activities may include: rock climbing, beep baseball, tandem biking, goalball, hiking, canoeing, and more. While we begin plans for future activities, the Club SportsVision planning committee is seeking feedback from parents and youth. We want to know what activities you want, when are the best days and times for activities, and more. In a few weeks you will receive a survey requesting your feedback on these issues.

     All Club SportsVision activities will be made accessible for visually impaired participants. For this reason, it is vital that participants register for each event. We will need to make sure there are enough volunteers and accommodations for everyone. To register for all Club SportsVision activities, call 412-441-4940 or e-mail Please include the visually impaired participant’s name, age, vision status, phone number, and number of additional participants. Welcome to the Club!!


2006 Winter Paralympics

     More than 600 athletes with disabilities from over 40 countries will converge on Torino, Italy for the IX Winter Paralympics, March 10 - 19, 2006. Athletes will compete in alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ice sledge hockey and wheelchair curling. The events will take place in two major hubs: the city of Torino and the mountain region of Sestriere.  Athletes who are visually impaired will compete in the skiing and biathlon competitions.

     The Alpine or downhill events for blind and visually impaired athletes include super giant slalom, giant slalom and slalom. Nordic or cross-country races will range from 2.5K to 20K individual events and 2.5K to 5K relays. In both downhill and cross-country skiing, competitors ski with a guide who skis either beside or behind the athlete while providing verbal instruction on slope and direction.

     Cross-country skiing and shooting combine to form the biathlon event. In both short and long distance races, competitors ski 2.5K loops. After each loop they must shoot targets that are 10M away using a stand-mounted air gun. For each missed target, athletes must either ski a penalty loop of 150m, or take shot penalties that add on to their total race time. When shooting, visually impaired skiers use a sound system that emits a signal indicating when their gun is aimed at the target.

     For the first time ever, the Paralympics will be broadcast in their entirety via webcast on the Internet. Coverage will run 24/7 and include all sports events, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. Check out the broadcast at

Back on Target

     The SportsVision Audio Darts Group is back in business as it has located a new site for its practice facility. Each Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. the group shoots at the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living located at 900 Rebecca Avenue in Wilkinsburg. TRCIL has generously donated their sunroom for darts at no charge. SV greatly appreciates the generosity of Stan Holbrook and the hospitality of the entire TRCIL staff!

     This past Columbus Day weekend, nine visually impaired darters from SportsVision's Audio Darts Group traveled across the state to compete in the biannual tournament in Wilmington, Delaware. Driver, spotter, and all-around assistant, Darlene Barton handled the weekend like a pro. The group was also fortunate to have the services of John Perseo, sighted guide and spotter extraordinaire for the trip. While rains pounded the National Guard Armory tournament site for three straight days, the Pitsburghers competitive spirit inside would not be dampened. Gene Barton won in High Score (Count Up) and Bob Lichtenfels took home the trophy in 301 Singles. The doubles team of Bob and Sue Lichtenfels finished second in both the 301 and 501 events. In triples competition, Gene Barton and Joe Wassermann partnered with Chip Hitt to take third in 501 and with Jim Musto to finish third in 301. All total, the Pittsburgh crew brought home over $1,200 in cash prizes-- a winning weekend to be sure.

     On Friday, January 20, darters Joe Wassermann, Gene Barton, and Bob Lichtenfels packed their money darts and flew to Minneapolis for the area's annual tournament. They competed with 20 blind and sighted darters from Minnesota's audio dart leagues. Joe and Gene took fourth in 501 doubles while Bob and his partner finished third. Gene also won fifth in 301 doubles competition and fourth in the 301 singles. Bob took third in 301 singles and fifth in the 301 round robin event. 

     Now that the traveling is complete and a new practice site is rolling, it's time for our dart program to begin plans for our biannual tournament. The Harold Schlegel Audio Dart Tournament will be held October6-8, 2006 at the Best Western in Greentree. The tournament committee is currently discussing this year's slate of events. Please save the date and we'll keep you posted on the details.

     With still eight months before the tournament, there's plenty of time to pick up the game. At only a $15 annual program fee you get use of SV darts, talking dartboards, and practice facilities. There's no greater value for a year filled with fun and fellowship. For those folks who work or cannot get to TRCIL, our group is looking into beginning an evening audio dart league. We need to know if there is interest in such an opportunity. Please contact Joe Wassermann at 412-687-5166, Gene Barton at 412-341-0114, or the SportsVision office at 412-441-4940 to express your interest in learning audio darts.


Paralympic Hall of Fame
From Visa International, January 24, 2006

     Visa International will be the Presenting Sponsor of the first Paralympic Hall of Fame (PHF), to be inaugurated at an Induction Ceremony on the evening of March 9, 2006 at the Armida Rowing Club in conjunction with the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games. The PHF will officially be recognized as the Paralympic Hall of Fame, presented by Visa.

     For this historic ceremony, three inductees chosen by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the IPC Governing Board will be inducted as members of the Paralympic Hall of Fame. These individuals will be elected based on their athletic performance, history of fair play and participation in community service.

     “As the first global sponsor of the Paralympic Games and Worldwide Partner of the IPC, Visa strongly supports the Paralympic Movement and continues to help facilitate progress toward greater worldwide acceptance of people with disabilities by promoting awareness of athletes with disabilities,” said Tom Shepard, Executive Vice President, Global Marketing Partnerships and Sponsorship, Visa International. “Visa’s sponsorship of the Paralympic Hall of Fame recognizes and celebrates the universal values of sportsmanship, excellence and commitment embodied by these athletes and coaches and recognizes the great influence they have had on the Paralympic Games.”

     According to the IPC, to be eligible for induction in the newly created Paralympic Hall of Fame, athlete and coach candidates must have participated in at least two Paralympic Games and must have won a number of medals, either directly or, in the case of a coach, through the athlete(s) or team(s) they coached. An athlete or coach must have ceased to be an active participant in the Paralympic Games for at least four years, or one Paralympic cycle, prior to the year of election.

     "The Paralympic Hall of Fame will commemorate Paralympians who have achieved true sporting greatness, and it will ensure that a permanent record and institutional memory is kept of top Paralympians. As an athlete-centered organization, the IPC is thankful to our Worldwide Partner Visa International, whose support will make the creation of the Paralympic Hall of Fame possible," said Sir Philip Craven, IPC President.

     Paralympic Hall of Fame election and induction ceremonies will be held in conjunction with the Paralympic Summer and Winter Games, and consequently will take place only during those years in which the Paralympic Games are held. For the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games, the PHF will exist as a virtual Hall of Fame on the IPC website. Visa’s sponsorship will continue for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.


Annual Appeal Success

     Dozens of individuals stepped up to the plate once again when SportsVision sent out an appeal for contributions. We raised over $1,200 through this generosity. Thank you for your financial commitment to SportsVision.

Board Changes

     At the December meeting of the SportsVision Board of Directors, members Wendy Fagan, Dian Heil, and Denise Gniewkowski resigned their positions with SportsVision. Each of these women have been extremely committed to SportsVision: Wendy as Camp Director, Dian as goalball coach and Treasurer, and Denise as Secretary. We thank these ladies for all of their work on behalf of SportsVision.

New Brochure

     For several weeks, SportsVision volunteer John Morley has been working on creating a new organization brochure. Good news! The SportsVision brochure is ready for distribution to parents, teachers, community organizations, blindness professionals, potential volunteers, and the public at large. It includes great color photos, descriptions of SV programs and a tear-away panel that can be mailed to SV to request additional information. If you know of an organization or individuals who should know more about SV, please let us know. Thanks John for sharing your talents with us.

Expanding the SV Team

     As SportsVision expands its programs and increases its client base, so also grows our need for additional people to help us carry on the mission. SportsVision seeks individuals to assist with clerical work, activity assistants, community speakers, and drivers/sighted guides. There are many committees that need more members to accomplish the organization’s goals. Committees needing additional members include: Camp SportsVision, Club SportsVision, Fundraising, Community Outreach, and Organizational Development. Whether you can commit to several hours each month, or only a one-time commitment, SportsVision sure could use your help. Please contact SportsVision at 412-441-4940 or to let us know you’d like to help.


Saturday, March 11, 2006 from 10 a.m. – 12p.m.
Audio Darts & Game Extravaganza
900 Rebecca Avenue in Wilkinsburg
Club SportsVision kicks off its monthly schedule with the opportunity to learn and play audio darts using a talking dartboard. We’ll also play some of your favorite indoor games, adapted for people who are visually impaired. This FREE event is open to visually impaired youth, their siblings, friends, and parents. RSVP your attendance to 412-441-4940 by March 9.

Sunday, April 2, 2006 from 1-4 p.m.
Forward Lanes, 5844 Forward Avenue in Squirrel Hill
Join Club SportsVision as we participate in this fundraiser for the Golden Triangle Council of the Blind. Come out to support this organization that often supports SportsVision. Visually impaired bowlers will have the use of guide rails for their three games. SportsVision youth and siblings will pay $7 while all adults (over 18) will pay $10. Register for the fun by calling 412-441-4940.

June 26 – July 2, 2006
IBSA Goalball World Championships
Spartanburg, SC
The 2006 IBSA Goalball World Championships will be held in Spartanburg, South Carolina from June 26 through July 2, 2006. The qualifications included regional competitions in Asia, Europe and the Americas for both men’s and women’s teams. Teams from the following countries have qualified: Algeria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iran, Greece, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, South Africa, Mexico, USA, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. To learn more about these championships, visit


Blind Gym Teacher Beats Odds
By Carol Anne Riddell of WNBC in New York, December 16, 2005

     Steven Sloan, a gym teacher at a school in East Harlem, cares deeply about his students. But in 20 years of teaching, he's never actually seen them.

     That's because he's been blind since birth. You might not guess that from watching him glide through the gymnasium at P.S. 102, acutely aware of what his kids are up to.
     Sloan says he relies on light perception to guide him through the room, along with his assistant Lorenzo Cowell, whom he calls his "eyes." Sloan's other senses are also exceptionally well tuned.
     "My nose is so keen I can smell people from afar," he said. "Plus kids talk, breathe. Whatever sound I hear, I move like that.”
     Sloan said some people discouraged him from attempting a career in physical education. He was told it would be impossible for a blind man -- a lesson not lost on his students.
     Leslie Gonzalez, one of his students, said Sloan is an inspiration. "People told him he was not able to accomplish his dream, but he kept working for it," she said.
     P.S. 102 Principal Sandra Gittens said it's easy to forget that Sloan has a disability. "Mr. Sloan just happens to be blind," said Gittens. "It really is an afterthought."
     Rules are serious business in Sloan's class, and he makes that clear to kids from the beginning. "I don't have sight. You're gonna see me walk into walls, walk into poles around here. But I'm the phys. ed. teacher in this building," he said. "We have rules. You follow my rules and we'll get along."
     But Sloan softens his tough-love approach with a generous sense of humor. For example, he comes up with a nickname for every child. The affectionate monikers include "Creamy," "Baby Diesel," "Sunshine," "Sweet Chocolate" and "Crazy Crazy."
     When asked how she earned her nickname, "Crazy Crazy" blamed it on her beads. "I had beads in my hair and when I did the mile run they would go around," she said. "Crazy."
     Sloan begged to differ. "No, her name is 'Crazy Crazy' because of the way she acts," he joked.
     Sloan's low-key perseverance has earned him accolades, including an honor he never expected -- a trip to Italy to take part in the Olympic torch-bearing ceremony. It's quite a voyage for Sloan, who said he's never been farther away than New Hampshire.
     But before he goes to Europe, Sloan is content to teach his gym class, showing his students that even the most challenging obstacles can't keep them down. "Blind is a state of mind," he said. "It's what you make of it."


Climbers Summit Kilimanjaro

     Several weeks ago, Erik Weihenmayer, the blind mountain climber who conquered the Seven Summits, again achieved the top of Kilimanjaro. This time though, he was accompanied by four other blind climbers: Douglas Sidialo a Kenyan who was blinded in the 1998 Kenyan Embassy bombing; Andy Holzer from Austria; Koichiro Kobayashi from Japan; and Carl Kroonenberg from Denver who has Usher's Syndrome. The team is creating the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust, which will be used to improve the lives and opportunities of blind children orphaned in East Africa.

Scdoris Receives Casey Martin Award

     Rachael Scdoris, the legally blind professional sled dog racer who competed in the 2005 Iditarod was named the winner of the Casey Martin Award. The Nike sponsored award recognizes the efforts of an athlete who, like Martin, has overcome physical, mental, societal or cultural challenges to excel in their sport. A $25,000 award will be given to the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes in her name.

Leisure in Focus Book

     “Leisure in Focus” is a new book published by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) in the United Kingdom. It highlights the success of the RNIB’s Leisure Link program, a leisure “buddy” project that has been active since 1999. Many of the essays are written by the visually impaired participant and discuss obstacles and triumphs. The book covers the gamut of arts and leisure activities and provides tips for adapting every one. "Leisure in Focus" is available in large print (PR12004P), braille (PR12004B), on disk (PR12004D) and on audio tape (PR12004T) for just £7.50 and can be ordered from: RNIB Customer Services, PO Box 173, Peterborough PE2 6WS.
Call 0845 702 3153 or e-mail

Out of Sight Fitness Program

     There is a health and fitness program designed specifically for people who are visually impaired. Bob Koppenjan, a blind certified personal trainer, designed the Out of Sight program. He addresses both exercise and nutrition. The nutrition information is provided in either Braille or large type while the 23-minute exercise routine is explained on audio cassette. The Out of Sight program is $39.95 through Duko Health International, 175 Irving Place, Rutherford, NJ 07070 (201) 507-1510.



P.O. BOX 23053




PO Box 23053 | Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Phone: 412.429.1996 | Email:
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