Sporting equipment for the visually impaired should be less expensive, says athlete

Dragan Bekric, who has represented Australia in Blind Tennis, says expensive equipment is one of the hurdles facing sport for the visually impaired.

Blind tennis player Ludmila Mina with her instructor.   -  FILE PHOTO/AP

Any sport can be modified to suit the needs of the visually impaired and inexpensive equipment and efforts for collaboration were needed to ensure its success, panelists said in a group discussion organised by India Vision Institute, a not-for-profit organisation, on Thursday.

The panelists discussed various aspects related to sport for the blind and visually impaired.

Going out and participating in sport is empowering for all involved, pointed out Dragan Bekric, a visually-impaired athlete. One of the impediments facing the organisation of sport for the visually impaired and their participation was the expensive equipment in sports like tennis, he said.

“Equipment is key. A lot of the equipment such as balls in tennis, are quite expensive, especially when you use them outdoors, they don’t last very long; a blind soccer ball, with a bell inside. There might be more cost-effective way to approach it,” Dragan, who has represented Australia in Blind Tennis and his State - South Australia - in Blind Cricket, said.

Rick Shrowder, co-founder of Global Community Sport, South Australia, advocated a less result-oriented approach to sport for the visually impaired. “When you’re starting it’s better to be less results focused and little bit more on the process and the benefits that people are gaining from that process,” he said.

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“Learning how to be confident, learning how to take risks, learning how to be resilient and accepting that things aren’t going to go right the first time: if they are built into the program you’re delivering, for the coaches and the participants, I think it makes things sustainable because your priorities and principles behind it are both in line,” he explained.

‘Unique sport’ 

According to Rajini Vasan, CEO, I Play Sport, a not-for-profit organisation, kabaddi is an inexpensive sport that can provide enormous benefits for the visually impaired. Moreover, it is a sport that the visually impaired can play alongside the full sighted. “Kabaddi is a unique sport; it doesn’t require expensive equipment, resources or manpower, or financial back-up to be able to participate in. Yet, it’s got a lot of transferable skills: the dodging, the weaving, the agility that you require can be taken forward to any other sport of your choice going forward. And the team skills and the fact that you could play with sighted and non-sighted counterparts speaks volumes for what the sport could be,” she said.

Rajini underlined the need for collaborative efforts to ensure the realisation of sporting projects for the visually impaired. Governments and businesses are no longer seeing these projects as a burden on their coffers, she pointed out. “It’s never a handout, it’s always a handshake,” she said.

“We also have to operate as responsible businesses, the only difference is that our profits are going back into the community rather than into the pockets of a few,” she concluded.