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

(Listen to this Newsletter as .WAV File - 170mb)


Kennywood Community Picnic

SportsVision will host its second annual Kennywood Community Picnic this summer. Join us on Sunday, July 26 for this exciting fellowship opportunity. This year’s event will include prize raffles, games, and food. SportsVision will provide, at no charge, an all you can eat buffet lunch for all who join us at Kennywood. The scrumptious meal including hot dogs, barbecue chicken, penne pasta, potato salad, baked beans, coleslaw, and orange pineapple whip will be served from 1-2 PM. Prior to the meal, from 11:30-1:00 PM, everyone is encouraged to register for the prize raffle and join in the fellowship games. After the meal, folks can feel free to hang out at the pavilion or head off to enjoy the rides and attractions.

All who are members of the visually impaired community, their friends, family members, and those who work with people who are blind or visually impaired are welcomed to join us for this community picnic. Admission tickets for Kennywood should be purchased through SportsVision for the discounted prices: Seniors over 55 are $17; Children under 2 are Free; and Regular Admission for all others is $23. Please complete the Admission Ticket Order Form and return it with your check or money order made payable to SportsVision by Wednesday, July 15. Indicate whether you are a professional in the vision field, a family with a child, or an adult who is visually impaired. All admission tickets will be mailed to you.

Let’s Go out to the Ball Game

SportsVision goes out to the ball game on Saturday, August 22. We are organizing a group of visually impaired youth and their families to join us for the Pirates vs. Reds baseball game. The game starts at 7 PM and is followed by KC & The Sunshine Band in concert. The game will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1979 Championship Team.

We have reserved a large group of seats together including seating for wheelchairs. SportsVision is offering specially priced tickets for $15 each including a Pirates ball cap. The seats are located in the outfield box along the third base line. Please complete the Pirate Ticket Order Form and return it with your check or money order made payable to SportsVision by Friday, August 7.

On-Going Audio Darts

Each Tuesday and Thursday members of the SportsVision Audio Darts Group meet to practice at the Western PA School for Blind Children located at 201 North Bellefield Avenue in Oakland. All are invited to join in the fun. The group welcomes the opportunity to meet and teach newcomers. Please give either Joe Wassermann at 412-687-5166 or Sue Lichtenfels at 412-429-1996 a call to learn more about the group.

Future Events

Please watch your mail or visit the SportsVision website at for information on future events. We are currently planning for an outdoor activity in September, a hayride and bonfire in October, and indoor rock climbing in November. If you are not already receiving event announcements from SportsVision, be sure to call our office at 412-429-1996 or email us at to be added to the distribution list so you don't miss the exciting activities organized especially for youth who are blind or visually impaired and their families.


Equipment Library Needs Feedback

Having the financial means to purchase adapted sports and recreation equipment has always been limited, but in today's tough economic climate, both school district and agency budgets are even tighter. SportsVision believes it’s found a way to help, but we need your feedback in order to realize this concept.  For the last year we have been gathering input from agency professionals, vision teachers, physical educators and school administrators on the potential usefulness of an adaptive equipment library. The library would loan items including: jingling balls, beeper balls, sports kits for goalball, soccer, and beep baseball; bowling guide rails and ramps; instructional books and videos; tactile diagrams or playing fields and courts; and more. Agency staff or teachers would be able to borrow this equipment for use in physical education class or community recreation offerings. While it's been a long process, we still need additional input from as many professionals who serve people who are blind or visually impaired as we can gather. If you have not already done so, please take the opportunity to complete our “Lending Library Survey”. The survey can be downloaded from our website.

Special Thanks

The members of the SportsVision Audio Darts Group would like to share their sincerest thanks to the Downtown Pittsburgh Lions, the Oakland Lions, the Alumni Association of the Western PA School for Blind Children (WPSBC), and an anonymous donor. Through the generosity of these donors, SportsVision was able to purchase the additional liability coverage necessary to continue offering our audio darts program at WPSBC.

New Olympic Office

Recently, President Barack Obama announced the formation of the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport. This permanent office will promote the values of the Olympic Movement and encourage increased youth participation in athletics.  The primary function of the Office will be to enhance awareness of the Olympic Movement through promotion of its fundamental principles at the federal level. 


Accessible Yoga Instruction

There is a new resource available for individuals with vision impairment who want to learn yoga. "Beginning Yoga for the Blind and Visually Impaired" was created by Gretchen Hein, a certified yoga teacher and her partner, Marty Klein, blind author, workshop leader and yoga student. This 5 CD set includes: physical activities that develop your sense of body awareness and alignment or cultivate a deeper spatial sense of your body and proper alignment; basic stretches that tone the body, develop flexibility and strength as well as encourage deep relaxation; 24 basic yoga poses presented in a clear, step-by-step manner, specially designed for those with little or no sight; how to use a yoga mat and other props as guides when you practice; special insights for the blind and visually impaired from the blind perspective; tips for yoga teachers for their blind and visually impaired students; and directions for programming your own yoga sequences. If you would like more information about this program, visit

USABA Hosting International Games

The U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) will play host to the 2009 International Blind Sport Association (IBSA) World Youth & Student Championships and the 2009 IBSA Pan American Games to be held in Colorado Springs, Colo. July 15-20, 2009. Fifteen countries from around the world have already committed to attend. This prestigious event is full of intense competition amongst the world's top blind and visually impaired athletes in the sports of swimming, judo, track and field and goalball. More than 350 athletes will reside in the Athlete Village at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colo. for the games. For more information on either of these games, visit or call 719-630-0422.

Wilmington Audio Dart Tournament

This year’s regional audio dart tournament will be held October 9-11 at the Double Tree Hotel located at 4727 Concord Pike in Wilmington, Delaware. There will be five events including: 301 Singles, two 301 Doubles events, 301 Triples, and 501 Triples. Entry fee is $90 for all events or $30 per event. The registration fee, the names of the events you will be participating in, and the names of your doubles and triples partners should be sent to Jackie Turner, 4618 Talleyhill Lane, Wilmington, De 19803 by September 18. All players need to report in at 6:30 PM Friday night with the first event beginning promptly at 7 PM. Room rates for double occupancy are $99 plus tax when made by September 29. Overnight reservations should be made by referencing the audio dart tournament when calling 302-478-6000. For additional tournament information, please call either Bill Driver at 302-528-8392 or Jackie Turner at 302-275-6498.


In these technology based times, the pulse of many organizations can be taken by viewing their websites. SportsVision is no different: evidence of our mission's work is displayed proudly on our website. The site is an excellent resource for past editions of "VISIONS", volunteer opportunities, future events, general information, and more. Highlighted here are three new features available at

In previous editions of “VISIONS” we have published a variety of articles under the “AdaptAbility” heading. Our goal has been to offer strategies for adapting specific sports and physical activities for people who are blind or visually impaired. Many of these articles are archived on the SportsVision website. Topics include: Making Physical Activity Instruction More Accessible, The Access Sports Model, 5-a-side football (soccer), Beep Baseball, Bowling, Chess, Darts, Goalball, Golf, Sailing, Wrestling, and Yoga. You can find these articles by clicking on "Demonstration" on our homepage.

We are now using the SportsVision website as a tool to gather your feedback. Our “Survey of Program Interests” is designed for youth and families who want to begin learning about and participating in SportsVision's monthly activities. It asks about the types of activities they would like to attend, cost considerations, time and location preferences, etc. You can download this form by clicking on "New participants" from our homepage.

Another exciting addition to the SportsVision website is our affiliate link for Future Aids- the Braille Super Store. At the bottom of the homepage you will find the link to access this online merchant of blindness products. In addition to household items, time keeping aids, braille books, and low vision products, Future Aids sells a wide collection of sports and recreation items. You'll find jingling basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, tennis balls; board games; craft and tactile activities; card games and accessories; brain teasers; and toys. Every time you purchase anything from this vendor through the link on our homepage, SportsVision earns funds; 15% of your purchase. 


Gardening for the Blind:  Tips for People with Impaired Vision
Written by Larry Caplan, University of Purdue, Vanderburgh County Extension
Taken from
Edited by Sue Lichtenfels

Gardening is one of the most popular leisure activities of Americans. Many people think that vision impairment will prevent them from enjoying their gardens. Not so! The French painter, Claude Monet, was an avid gardener who loved flowers almost as much as he did painting. Although Monet eventually lost most of his vision, he did not stop painting, nor did he ever lose his love for gardening. Vision impairment does not have to spoil your enjoyment of gardening, either. In fact, with some planning, care, and a readiness to ask for help when you need it, you can have a garden that has a lot more going for it than just eye appeal. You can have a garden that appeals to all of your senses.

A word of caution: The suggestions printed here are helpful hints and should not be used as a license to perform dangerous tasks. Be careful not to attempt a project that you feel may place you in a potentially harmful situation. Ask for assistance with the project if you feel at risk. Above all, do not use any chemical compound without first reading the label directions or having someone read them to you.

Getting Around in the Garden:

Getting around in the garden should be your first consideration. Most gardens have a lawn, which is attractive and also cushions accidental falls. However, canes and crutch tips can easily get tangled in the grass. Grass can also hide uneven ground, which can throw you off balance. So it’s a good idea to use some sort of paving for navigating in the garden or landscape.

Paths and paved areas should be smooth, level, and firm. They should always have good traction. Wood, for example, becomes very slippery when wet. Provide direct routes through the garden, and make sure paths have clear beginnings and ends. Include wind chimes, fountains, or other objects you can hear, so you can orient yourself in the garden more easily.

Path edges should have distinct differences in texture, such as concrete to grass or bricks to a mulched bed, so you can detect the edges. Use a strip with a change in texture across the path to indicate an entrance to the patio, a tree with interesting bark, or a clump of particularly fragrant plants. The strip should be about 12 to 18 inches wide, and can be made from any noticeably contrasting paving materials, such as a brick strip across a crushed stone path. Avoid raised edging, which can create a tripping hazard.

Working in the Garden:

Making the garden easy to work in is the next consideration. Raised beds and containers make it easy to reach the soil and the plants. Raised beds are stable and heavy enough for you to sit on the edge or lean on for support, while containers can be moved and take up less room. These structures also cut down the number of special tools you'll need to tend your garden. Avoid structures with sharp corners and edges.
The right tools are also important. You'll need to select tools that are durable, lightweight, and easy for you to use. Some tools, like garden trowels, will have engraved markings to indicate soil depth, making it easier to determine how deep to plant bulbs and other transplants.

Most garden jobs are easier and less strenuous when you can use both hands. This may be difficult if you need a cane to move around. To make your tools easy to carry, you may want to wear a garden apron or tool belt with lots of pockets so that you can keep your hands free. A four-wheeled wagon can carry several larger tools and can be pulled with one hand.

Cordless electric tools are safer and easier than power tools with cords. Tools should have brightly colored handles to prevent you from accidentally grabbing sharp blades or from losing them. Again, if you do not feel that you can safely operate these tools, play it safe and ask for assistance.


An orderly garden is easier for the visually impaired gardener to maintain and helps with locating specific plants. In the vegetable garden, plant your crops in straight rows, and space the plants evenly apart. Run a rope with evenly spaced knots across the garden, and plant your seeds or transplants at each knot. You can also cut evenly spaced notches into a wood board and use that as a template. Any plant that is not along this straight line may be considered a weed.

If you are planting seeds or small transplants, use your hands to feel how deeply they need to go. The root ball of the transplant must be completely covered to prevent the roots from drying out. Many plants won't grow well if planted too deeply, however. Dig your planting hole with a garden trowel or with your hand, and gently place the plant into it. The top of the root ball should be level with, or slightly below, the soil line of the garden. With your finger, push large seeds into the soil to a depth of 2 or 3 times their diameter.. Lay small seeds along the row, and then cover them with a light layer of compost or peat moss.

Seed planting can be made easier by using seed tape. This can be purchased from most garden centers and seed companies. Lay the tape in a straight line to plant your seeds. After the first few rains, the paper decomposes and disappears.

With herb and flower gardens (both annual and perennial), you may not have straight rows. Use a label or a tag next to each plant to help you identify different plants or varieties. The name and variety can be printed with large, readable letters, or in Braille. Labelers are available that can imprint a weatherproof, plastic tape in either Braille or in large print. Even without writing, labels and stakes are the easiest way to say "This plant stays!"


All plants need water, but they may not all need the same amount. Group plants with similar watering needs or frequency together. To avoid accidents, keep hoses off of paths, and try to avoid getting walkways wet and slippery.

Containerized plants may need to be watered as much as once or twice a day. You can water these with a hose or a watering can. Add water until it begins to seep out of the drainage holes on the bottom. This way, you're sure the entire root ball is getting wet. Keep your hand along the top of the container, so you can feel if you are overfilling the container.

Vegetables, annual flowers, trees, and shrubs all do best with 1 inch of water each week. A rain gauge will tell you how much irrigation or rain water has been added to your garden. You can make an inexpensive but functional rain gauge out of a coffee can, a pickle jar, or anything with straight sides. Place it in the garden where it is easy to find. You can dip a tactile or Braille ruler into the jar to measure the amount of water you've collected. Tape a piece of construction paper to the back of the ruler, so you can feel how high the water measures on the ruler.

Sprinklers can be placed in the garden and moved about as needed. The rain gauges make it easy to measure when enough water has been added. However, overhead sprinklers waste water and can increase plant disease problems, especially if the foliage is kept wet all night. A soaker hose or drip irrigation system will keep water off of the leaves, and cause less waste.

Soaker hoses and drip irrigation tubes can be run along the garden row, or interwoven between shrubs and flowers. You will need to time how long it takes your soaker system to supply moisture down to the root zone (usually 6 inches deep). The time needed will vary with soil type, water pressure, and equipment. Once you know how long you need, you can set your irrigation system on a timer to shut it off automatically.


The most important thing in weed control is identifying the weed. This is a difficult skill, even under the best of circumstances. It is even more difficult for the gardener with impaired vision. Placing your plants in straight lines, with regular spacing between the plants, will help. Anything that is not in a straight line or marked with a label is most likely a weed.

Learn to tell the difference between your garden plants and common weeds by sight, touch, or smell. Visit other gardens, and familiarize yourself with the way plants feel or smell. You may also want to have an experienced, sighted gardener check your garden and landscape for poison ivy and other dangerous weeds before you handle them.
If weeds appear in your garden, the easiest way to get rid of them is to pull them. One way to reduce the amount of weed-pulling is to not let the presence of an individual weed or two bother you! This way, weeding once a week will get rid of most of the troublesome problems. A layer of mulch between garden plants will also reduce weed problems.

The best method of weed control is prevention. Use a two to four inch layer of mulch between rows and individual plants, to keep weeds from germinating. Grass clippings, leaves, straw, corn cobs, newspaper, and other organic materials make excellent mulch in vegetable and herb gardens. Use wood chips or shredded bark in perennial, shrub, and tree beds.


Pruning trees and shrubs corrects defects, rejuvenates the plant, and removes low-hanging limbs that may cause injury.

Gardeners are normally warned not to prune large branches from big trees, due to the danger of having a heavy branch fall on them. This is doubly important if you are visually impaired, because you won't see the branch beginning to fall or be able to locate a safe escape route. For shade trees, hire a professional arborist.

Smaller shrubs can be pruned with less risk. If an individual branch is not growing correctly (for example, it’s sticking out into walkways or rubbing against other branches), follow this branch with your hand until you find where it meets a main limb or trunk. At this place, remove the branch with your shears or pruning saw, taking care to keep your fingers out of the way.

Pest Control:

Identifying what is wrong with a plant is difficult for most gardeners. The presence of spots, the subtle shading of leaf color, and the presence of tiny insects may be difficult for a vision-impaired gardener to detect. Help from a sighted gardener is essential for identification.

Once the plant problem has been identified, it must be treated. Making sure the plant has ideal growing conditions can prevent many pest problems. Occasionally, a pest problem will become so severe that chemical control may be necessary. This is a potentially hazardous activity for most gardeners, because it's easy to expose yourself to the chemical. This also includes "natural" pesticides, such as rotenone and pyrethrum, which can still harm you and the environment.

For the vision-impaired gardener, it is extremely dangerous to spray pesticides. You may have problems reading label directions. It is also easy to accidentally spray beneficial insects and other non-target plants and creatures. Because it is difficult to accurately measure the amounts of pesticides you need without exposing yourself to the chemicals, you may want to use the pre-mixed, ready-to-use products available in garden centers. Be sure to read and follow all label directions before buying, using, and disposing of all pesticides. If you are not absolutely confident in your ability to use pesticides in a manner safe for you and the environment, ask for help.


The garden is a magical place that can -- and should -- be enjoyed by everyone. This publication is a brief introduction to the world of gardening for people with impaired vision. Another article from this author is “Gardening for the Senses:  The Sensual Garden”. It can be read at Another resource is the American Foundation for the Blind’s Senior Site available at Hadley School for the Blind offers a free course for people who are visually impaired entitled, “Container Gardening.” For the course description and enrollment information, visit or call 800-323-4238. Hadley has also presented a seminar on gardening which can be listened to through their website. From the home page, click on “Past Seminars” and look for “Harvest the Benefits of Gardening”.

** ABOUT US **

SportsVision develops opportunities for individuals 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.

Please contact SportsVision at 412-429-1996 for subscription requests. Article submissions and content suggestions for “VISIONS” 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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