Tips for teaching sport to visually impaired students

Sound, touch and feel

Vision impaired students rely on other means of communication such as sounds and touch. Small changes can make a big difference for the VI students.

Explaining the rules

  • In teaching sports, it’s important to explain directly to the vision impaired student, as well as their buddy.
  • When explaining team sports, don't assume that the VI student has picked up your team talk and use the student’s name to check their understanding of the rules.
  • Be aware of background noise and how it can echo in a large gymnasium, and bring the VI student closer to you if necessary.
  • Always look at the situation from the student’s perspective.
  • Check: Is there a better position for the student to see you? If they see better in one eye, try standing on that side to demonstrate a task.
  • Position yourself with the sun in front of you.

Equipment

  • Use sports equipment that has sound, for example balls with bells in.
  • Use guidance ropes to pair sighted and vision impaired students.
  • Mark out tracks and fields with tactile markers or black on yellow stripe tape and string.
  • Enlarge signs to font size 36 and above.
  • Use texture on equipment to make the equipment accessible.
  • Think about making things big, bright and bold. Consider the colour and contrast of the equipment and avoid, for example, green markers on grass.

Planning and preparation

  • Consider health and safety aspects such as obstacles or different types of terrain. Imagine what it feels like under-foot.
  • Go over any courses using maps with the VI student individually.
  • Risk-assess sessions which may be hazardous to the visually impaired student.

Other adaptations

  • Use a series of buddies (support assistants or willing peers) to support, help and guide. The buddy can tell the vision impaired student when to pass, or when to expect the ball, explain the next section of the session or guide the participant to the appropriate place. A buddy ensures that a VI person isn’t completely reliant on the coach.
  • Use the British Blind Sport advice on whether activities should be, open, modified or parallel between sighted and VI students
  • Slow down games or activities to ensure that students are processing and learning each skill.
  • Add more comfort breaks if necessary to avoid eye fatigue.
  • Sports such as cycling and running require a specialist sighted training partner, so consult with sports advisers for vision impaired people on how to make sports more accessible.

Assistive technology

Assistive technology (AT) can help a student access and replay information and so make sport more accessible.

  • Audio balls have bells inside.
  • Complex instructions can be given to students before the lesson on mp3 or in large print form.
  • Speech recognition software such as the Sonocent app enables the student to give commentary on their own performance in real-time, then download and analyse the data
  • Talking pens and programmable dots can be used to go over a cross-country course.

See 'General tips for teaching visually impaired students' for introductory information including lighting, emotional support, formatting documents, assistive technology, techniques such as hand-over-hand guiding and further sources of information.