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


Rec-Connect Directory

     SportsVision is currently compiling its Rec-Connect Directory to help assist blind youth and their families to connect with others like them who have similar recreation and leisure interests. The Rec-Connect Directory will enable those listed in the directory to set up play dates, discuss common interests and experiences, and develop friendships. The first-ever Rec-Connect Directory, published in 2004, included information from 27 of Western PA’s visually impaired youth. SportsVision hopes to reach even more families in this next issue.

     A copy of the Rec-Connect data sheet has been included with this newsletter. Using information collected from the data sheets, a directory will be created and distributed to everyone listed in it. Please share copies of the data sheet with any families of visually impaired youth that you believe would benefit from connecting with others. Once the data sheet has been completed and signed by a parent or guardian, return it to SportsVision.

     Remember, if you would like to be listed in the directory and/or would like a copy of it, you need to submit the data sheet. Only individuals listed in the directory will receive a copy of it. Data sheets must be returned to SportsVision by Saturday, February 10, 2007 for distribution in March. Please feel free to contact the SportsVision office with any questions.

** Upcoming events **

Dart Mini Tournament
     On Tuesday, January 23, 2007 the SV Audio Dart Group will hold a mini tournament at the Three River’s CIL located at 900 Rebecca Avenue in Wilkinsburg. The event is $10 per darter. The game is 301 Round Robin. For additional information, contact the SV Dart Coordinator, Joe Wassermann at 412-687-5166.

Darts & Board Games
     On Saturday, February 10, 2007 SportsVision will host a morning of audio darts and board games for youth with visual impairments, their friends, and families. The event will run from 10 AM until 1 Pm at the Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church located at 3319 West Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh. Bring your favorite game to share with others. Snacks will be provided for this free event. Call SportsVision at 412-429-1996 or e-mail to let us know you will be joining us.

     On Sunday, March 18, 2007 SportsVision goes bowling. Children who are visually impaired, their friends, and family members are welcome to join us for an afternoon of pin crashing. We’ll bowl from 3-6 PM at Playmor Bowl, 5840 Buttermilk Hollow Road in West Mifflin. All children under 16 (both visually impaired and sighted) bowl FREE. Adults pay $6 to bowl three games. Let us know how many will attend by contacting 412-429-1996 or   

** Adaptability **

Visually Impaired Athletes in Judo Competition
By Neil Olekma
Reprinted from

     Today there are many competitive opportunities for visually impaired athletes in local, national, and international events. The United States Association for Blind Athletes (USABA) coordinates sporting events for Judo, track and field, tandem cycling, swimming, power lifting and many other sports. Visually impaired athletes require some minor accommodations to participate in most of these sports, including judo. No sport though is better suited than Judo to permit visually impaired athletes to compete on an equal basis against sighted athletes.

     Blind competitors have competed at the local level for years and at the national level, in both kata and shiai. Blind competitors also compete in international tournaments and world championships for the blind. However, there has always been a need for uniformity in application of the rules at various events where the visually impaired compete against sighted athletes. Training for the visually impaired competitor should include specific instruction on rules applicable to their participation. As more visually impaired athletes take part in tournaments, referees and sighted athletes will also need to be familiar with the adaptations required for matches involving a blind athlete.

     Competition specifically for visually impaired competitors is governed by the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) and by USABA in the United States. Both organizations have similar rules based on adaptations to the current International Judo Federation rules.

     Each visually impaired athlete is unique and competitors may need varying degrees of assistance depending on visual acuity, experience, age, etc. The basic procedures are that the coach or assistant will guide the competitor to his/her side of the mats when called and ensure that the competitor knows whether they are aka (red) or shiro (white). The corner judge then guides the athlete to his/her starting mark. After the judges are seated the referee will announce "re".

     The most important rule modification involves the beginning of the match. Although different methods have been tried in the past, the current rules call for the referee to clap once with arms outstretched in front. The competitors then advance towards each other until contact is made. They engage in Kumikata (grip each other's gi). The competitors should have their feet even or parallel with each other and then the referee announces "hajime".

     This starting position is used to permit the contestants to grip each other freely. Until "hajime" is called the referee should ensure that the athletes do not step away or change their foot positions. Each time the athletes separate during a match the same procedures are used to resume competition.

     Rules for blind competitions call for the danger zone to be distinguishable by touch (this can be done by temperature). Since this is not practical for many local tournaments, officials must recognize that visually impaired athletes may not be able to tell when they are approaching the boundaries. The referee should call "matte" when necessary to ensure safety and to prevent an unintentional rule violation.

     All of the referee's hand signals (such as the motion which indicates stalling or inactivity) should be verbalized for the visually impaired athlete, and announced scores should include "aka" or "shiro" to be sure both competitors are informed of the score. Referees may take the opportunity during a break in the action to verbally inform the contestants of the score and time remaining, if appropriate. At the end of the match the corner judge again provides whatever assistance is needed as a guide for the visually impaired competitor.

     Being visually impaired is not a handicap when it comes to participation in judo. With a little assistance and encouragement, blind athletes and youth can enjoy all the benefits of judo competition. By recognizing the abilities of visually impaired athletes they can easily be included in all judo classes and events including tournaments.

** Highlight Reel **

2006 Dart Tournament
     Twenty-four darters participated in the 2006 Harold Schlegel Audio Dart Tournament at the Best Western in Greentree. Pittsburgh’s Chip Hitt won the top prize for the weekend’s highest ton (highest score over 100 in one round). In the finals of 301 Doubles, Bob and Sue Lichtenfels beat Gene Barton and Joe Wassermann to finish first and second respectively. The other Pittsburgh participants were first-timer Darlene Barton, Jim Musto, Bonnie Newland, Cindy Perseo, and Pat Turner. Nearly all ten of the Pittsburgh darters finished in the money.

SportsVision Seeks Help
     SportsVision is seeking volunteers to assist in several areas. Help is needed for outreach efforts, planning activities, fundraising, preparing newsletters, developing new programs, and more. Positions are available for individual tasks or committee work. If you have some extra time, we would love to share in your talents. Please contact 412-429-1996 or to express your interest. We welcome the opportunity to discuss the possibilities with you.

Free Tandem Bike
     A great friend of SportsVision is looking to donate a used tandem bike to a blind rider and sighted pilot who can make use of it. If you would like to take the bike for a ride to make sure you can use it, please contact SportsVision at 412-429-1996.
Beep Baseball in Western PA
     This past summer the National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA) demonstrated beep baseball at the All Star Game’s Fan Fest held at the convention center in Pittsburgh. The demo peaked the interest of Dave and Barbara Gross. They are working hard to put together a local beep baseball team. The team needs sighted and blind players over age 16 who are fairly independent. If you would like to learn more about the team, please contact SportsVision at 412-429-1996.

New Web Resource
     The American Printing House has launched a new web resource for parents and teachers of children with all kinds of sensory impairments. The site promotes physical education and recreation by providing lists of magazines, organizations, equipment venders, camps, and much more. Click on the PE link at to access this resource.

** S&L Spotlight Organization **

Kids Together, Inc.

     Kids Together, Inc. is an all-volunteer organization the promotes inclusive communities. It began when a group of parents decided to do something to help their children be a part of the community. “We wanted other people to understand that having a disability is but one small part of our children, to understand that they are more similar to all children then they are different.”  

     Its comprehensive web site provides information and resources to help people with disabilities lead quality lives. “Our site is designed to help parents have dreams for their children, and to help make those dreams come true. We want to provide you with the information and resources to enhance your child's quality of life.” Parents can learn about networking opportunities, overviews of disability-related education and community legislation, links to other organizations, and articles on how to be an advocate.

     Each year Kids Together holds the Kids Together Day Festival, a children’s fair that includes adaptive activities and spotlights talented people with disabilities. Kids Together also offers a monthly e-newsletter that provides links to disability resources. To learn more about Kids Together’s efforts, visit

** All-Star Accolades **

Football by touch
By Lee Bonorden
From Austin Daily Herald, Monday, October 16, 2006

     The parking lot along Highway 56 at the west edge of Adams is filled with vehicles. The bleachers hold fans squinting into the sunshine. The west sidelines are lined with fans.
     Behind the end zone, there's another game of football going on - small fry with big dreams of someday playing on the Rebels' field.
     The air is punctuated with whistles, the crunch of shoulder pads and helmets colliding, and applause, cheers, groans.
     It's Southland Red versus Southland Blue, the only home game of the season for the fifth- and sixth-graders, who play in the Austin Youth Football League each Saturday morning in the fall at Austin.
     The game has "can't miss" stamped all over it: two undefeated teams, and only one can win.
     So when it's over, why doesn't Riley Schmitz know who won and what the final score of the game was?
     Could it be at this level, Schmitz plays for the fun of it?
     Must be.
     Riley is the son of Charley and Angie Schmitz of Adams. The 10-year-old is a fifth-grader at Southland Elementary School in Rose Creek. They also have a daughter, Peyton, 5.
     Riley has Leber Congenital Amaurosis, an inherited retinal degenerative disease characterized by severe loss of vision at birth. A variety of other eye-related abnormalities including roving eye movements, deep-set eyes, and sensitivity to bright light also occur with this disease.
     All the things that make the Saturday afternoon a perfect time and place for everyone else are elusive to Riley's vision.
     "He does well with what he has for vision," his father, Charley, said. "He has trials every day, but he just copes with it and does the best he can.
     "He can read large print, but he started out with Braille," he said. "We knew he had a vision problem when he was 4 months old. He's worn glasses ever since."
     Riley has a full-time paraprofessional in school to assist him and a vision teacher also comes to Southland to help him.
     The fifth grade is the earliest a boy can play organized football in the Austin Youth Football League. When Riley asked his parents if he could play football this fall, it caused some concern.
     "I didn't want him to do it, but his mom told me we couldn't hold him back, and let him do what he wants to do," Charley said.
     Riley chose to play the center position, in part because his father was a center
when he played high school football.
     His father gives his son praise for mastering the center position despite his vision problem. Riley's team uses the "shotgun" offensive formation, with the quarterback standing a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. Riley, looking straight ahead at the defense, must snap the ball to where he hears the quarterback barking signals.
     "It's mostly a matter of feel and touch and lots of practice," Charley said. The Southland Red team practices every day after school at the Rose Creek school. When father and son are home, they practice centering the ball some more.
     Riley's coach, Rocky Schammel, guides him onto the field toward his teammates' huddle. Teammates guide him to the line of scrimmage.
     If one didn't know of the child's semi-blindness, it is unlikely they would suspect there is anything wrong with his eyesight.
     How far his son goes in the sport is up to Riley.
     "As long as he wants to play," Charley said. "It's his choice."
     "I think it's fantastic that he can get out there and play, and I am so proud of the team for helping him out. They all pitch in and help him to get where he has to go and do a good job," Riley's grandmother, Sue Kiefer, said after Saturday's game.
     Her son, Brad, required a prosthetic when he was a child and then a teenager. She has no reservations about her daughter and son-in-law allowing their son to play football.
     "We gave our son the opportunity to do what he wanted," she said. "I think Riley should have the opportunity, too."
     Riley's mother, Angie, knows what the doctors have said about the eye disease her son suffers from. She and her husband watched LCA take over their baby son's life at an early age.
     Individuals with LCA have very reduced vision at birth. Within an infant's first few months of life, parents usually notice a lack of visual responsiveness and unusual roving eye movements, known as nystagmus.
     "He's just a normal kid, 100 percent, with a vision problem. That's all," Angie said.
     The center of attention, as well as the Southland Red football team, steps forward after the game. He has red hair and freckles and a smile that is infectious.
     "What was the final score of today's game?" he is asked. "I don't remember," he replies.
     "Who won?"
     "We did. I think," he said.
     "What is your favorite team?"
     "The St. Louis Rams and the San Diego Chargers," he replies.
     "Would you like to play football in high school?"
     "Yeah," he said.
     Then, the questions turn serious.
     "You have a vision problem and it is a serious one that requires special help and attention, Riley. Are you still doing everything you want to do in life?"
     "Yup," he said.
     "So, life is good for Riley Schmitz at this time of your life?"

** About US **

     SportsVision develops opportunities for people who are visually impaired to participate in competitive sports and life-long leisure activities. Our vision is a community where people who are visually impaired have the freedom to pursue and enjoy the many benefits of sports and leisure opportunities. SportsVision is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization. All contributions are tax deductible.

     “VISIONS” is available in various accessible formats including e-mail, large type, and audio cassette. If you wish to change the format you receive or make address changes, contact our office at 412-429-1996. Article submissions and content suggestions are always welcome at P.O. Box 23053, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 or



PO Box 13202 | Pittsburgh, PA 15243
Phone: 412.429.1996 | Email:
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