Access to Fitness
The guidewire system can be set up on a track, in a gym, or along a child's backyard or driveway. The rope must be pulled taught and attached to an eyehook in a gym, or attached to short poles outside; a carabiner, key ring, or 4 inch PVC tube can be placed around the rope so the child does not have to hold directly onto the rope. There must be a warning knot at least 2 feet from the end, and a difference in floor texture so the child does not run into the wall or the end poles.
Advantages. (A) A child can run whenever he/she desires. (B) Running gait can be efficient with almost full arm swing with both arms. (C) The child can run in relays, and perform locomotor skills independently beside sighted peers.
In the sighted guide technique the child holds the guide runners' elbow with the thumb out. The child may also choose to hold onto the runners' shoulder; they could hold hands, or the child could just follow the runner if he/she wears a bright shirt. The sighted guide should be trained in guiding, communication techniques, and appropriate running terrain. In addition, the guide runner should be able to run faster than the runner who is blind so the guide does not hold back the runner.
Advantages. (A) Fear is decreased because of the guide. (B) Running gait can be efficient with almost full arm swing with both arms. (C) Socialization can be increased because of running with a peer or another individual.
The tether is a short rope, towel, or shoe lace, held between the guide and the individual with a visual impairment. It can be wrapped around each persons' hand for security so it does not slip. If an area of danger appears, the guide pulls the runner closer to avoid injury. For this technique, the guide must also be able to run faster than the runner who is blind.
Advantages. Advantages to running with a tether are the same as running with a sighted guide. Additional advantages (A) Runner has some space. (B) Runner often feels more independent than with other guiding techniques.
This technique requires a runner who is blind to run towards a callers voice. The runner is not restricted to holding on to anything, and runs freely. The caller can stand at the other end of the gymnasium or track for a short run, or can run behind, beside, or in front of the runner running distances holding a bell, keys, or using verbal instruction.
Advantages. (A) Runner is not restricted so arm motion can be full and natural. (B) Runner has the feeling of being independent. (C) Runner can run as fast as desired without worrying.
Running with no assistance on a track
This can be set up with a child with low vision on a track that is dark with bright lines. It works best when the track is not crowded and recommended that the child not run alone.
Advantages.(A) The child can run with full arm swing and potentially efficient biomechanical gait. (B) The child can run independently. (C) The child can run side-by-side with a friend.
Running on a treadmill
Any child with or without a visual impairment can run on a treadmill. Treadmills are common and accessible to children with visual impairments. It is recommended that the child start out slowly to get a feel for the motion.
Advantages.Advantages. (A) The child can run with full arm swing. (B) The child can keep track of speed and distance. (C) The child can run on his/her own without need for a guide. (D) Treadmills are found in gyms and fitness centers around the country. (E) Children can learn age appropriate and functional skills to be utilized after school age in making a lifetime commitment to an active lifestyle.
Note: Above information was modified from: Craft & Lieberman, 2000 and Lieberman, Butcher and Moak, 2001
Individuals who have some usable vision may be able to ride a bicycle independently in a quiet park or around a track. It is always safer if there are peers or individuals with sight to ensure safety if this is the chosen mode of fitness.
Advantages: Allows participant to ride alone and have a feeling of independence. This will also free up caregivers and teachers.
Tandem bikes allow the sighted participant to ride in the front of the bike, while the participant who is visually impaired or blind rides in the back. The person in front is responsible for steering, peddling and stopping. The person in the back is responsible for peddling. Tandem bikes can be purchased through most bicycle stores and range from $400-$2,000. Be sure to try out several bikes before you purchase one. If you are not sure who to ride with, contact your local bicycling club, university, or deaf club. When riding be sure to develop specific signals for turning, stopping, or emergencies.
Advantages: (A) This is a safe and healthy way for individuals with visual impairments to gain fitness. (B) They can ride with no fear of being in an accident. (C) Increases socialization.
Surrey or duo bikes
Surrey, or duo bikes are bikes where the participants ride side by side. The sighted participant is responsible for steering and stopping. This is more conducive to communication for individuals who are visually impaired or blind because the riders are side-by-side. The purchase of these bikes usually takes place through specialty bike stores. Your local bike store will give you directions about where to get a catalogue for these neat bikes.
Advantages: (A) The riders are side-by-side and can talk and communicate during the ride. In addition, because of this configuration, any child who is deaf-blind and who uses sign can communicate effectively during the ride. (B) The stability of a three or four-wheeled bike helps stability and comfort levels.
These bicycles can be used independently by anyone who has some functional use of their legs. Many stationary bikes will read the distances traveled and amount of time ridden. These can be purchased for $100-$1,000 in most sporting good stores. Be sure that you have a way to record the distance traveled if this interests you. You may also wish to ride for a certain period of time.
Advantages: (A) Stationary bikes are found in health clubs, at schools and in the home. Using a stationary bike as a means of exercise is normal and well understood. (B) The participant does not have to worry about weather or having a sighted guide.
Bicycle stands can turn an ordinary ten speed into a stationary bike. These are now similar to stationary bicycles and can be purchased for under $100 from any sporting good stores.
Advantages: (A) The advantages of a bicycle stand are the same as for a stationary bicycle.
Swimming is one of the best activities for individuals who are visually impaired or blind. There are few barriers, and the swimmer can move freely without worrying too much about obstacles. Water can aid in range of motion, muscle strength, balance, stability, locomotion, and socialization. A few adaptations for the aquatics area include:
Utilize a variety of flotation devices when needed. An individual can still receive an aerobic workout with a flotation device. If the individual is afraid to swim in the deep end without a flotation device, that is fine. He/she can swim laps with the flotation device if this makes them more comfortable. Kickboards are helpful because the board hits the side of the pool before your head does!
Use the wall and lane lines as guides for lap swimming the length of the pool.
Use some type of counter devices such as flip cards, counters, or rings to assist in understanding of distance traveled or number of laps.
The pool is a wonderful medium for teaching locomotor and object control skills because water provides full-body support and balance is naturally enhanced.
Utilize a lot of hand-over-hand teaching and brailling the instructor for beginners (Lieberman & Cowart, 1996)
For individuals who do not feel comfortable swimming laps, treading water is a good aerobic workout and you don't have to worry about bumping your head on the wall of the pool!
Note: Above information was modified from Lieberman & Taule, 1998