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Activities Home | Index of Activities

Sports and Activity Rules for those with Visual Impairments

| Alpine Skiing | Athletics | Beep Ball | Goalball | Judo | Nordic Skiing |
| Powerlifting | Swimming | Tandem Cycling | Wrestling |

For further information go to the United States Association of Blind Athletes web page


Alpine Skiing

Alpine skiing is a winter sport which requires excellent endurance and communication skills between the visually impaired skier and the guide. The skier controls his/her descent by traversing the face of the hill. The guide facilitates this activity by calling out turns to be made etc. This process is the same as for any skier except that a sighted guide assists in navigation.

Events competition among the blind/visually impaired occurs at regional, national and international levels in the following events:

Slalom - A race in which each competitor, with navigational assistance from a guide, skies as fast as possible down a zig zag course around tightly placed markers.

Giant slalom - A race that is similar to slalom but on a longer course and the markers are spread further apart. Thus turns are less frequent but at higher speeds.

Super giant slalom - Similar to the giant slalom but on a much longer course with fewer turns which results in very fast racing.

Downhill - The fastest of all the ski races. The skier and guide negotiate a course with even fewer turns that the Super G at exhilarating speeds.

Special Equipment - Skies, boots, poles goggles and helmets must be worn at all times in competition.


Track consists of running short, middle and long distance events which are excellent for quickness, strength and improving the cardiovascular system. The use of guides depends entirely on the athlete's visual classification and the particular event. Guides facilitate the activity by running alongside the visually impaired athlete, both runners holding on to a tether. Alternatively, stationary guides positioned around the track call to the runner giving directional signals.


100 meter (Male & Female), 4x100m Relay (M&F), 200 meter (M&F), 400 meter (M&F), 800 meter (M&F), 1500 meter (M&F), 3000 meter (F) , 5000 meter (M), 10k road race (M&F), Marathons (M&F), Pentathlon (M&F)

Proper running shoes are strongly recommended. Track spikes are allowed. Tethers for use with guide runners shall be a flexible, non-elastic material not to exceed 50 cm in length.

Beep Ball

The pitcher and the catcher of each team are sighted players. These pitch at, and catch from, their own team, the opposite of what happens in ordinary baseball, where these players pitch and catch against the opposing team. All the players, except those just mentioned, wear blindfolds. Why? To avoid those with residual vision having an advantage over the totally blind players.

When a player takes his place to bat, the pitcher and catcher of his team also come on. The pitcher will be at a distance of twenty feet (6 meters) from the home plate and will do all he can to ensure the batter hits the ball. For a shot to be considered good, it must pass a line situated forty feet (12 meters) from the home plate. If it does not pass this line, it will be considered void. Neither the pitcher nor the catcher may touch the ball once it has been batted. Should this occur, the batter will be declared out. The batter will strike out after four strikes and not three as is the case in ordinary baseball. The pitcher will use two signals, warnings or commands to help the batter to hit the ball: first, he will shout "ready", which means that both himself and the batter are ready to play and, second, "ball", at which the batter will attempt to hit the approaching ball. Should the batter hit the ball the required distance, he then runs towards the base activated for him by the umpire - first or third. The base emits a continuous beeping sound to distinguish it from the ball and thus avoid confusion for the players between one and the other. The base is made of a soft material (foam), covered with plastic and is three feet (approx. 1 meter) high. There are only two bases on the pitch, compared with the three in ordinary baseball. They are situated at a distance of 90 feet (27 meters) from the batting area, one along the right-hand line and one on the left, similar to the first and third bases in ordinary baseball. They will be placed ten feet (3 meters) outside the foul line. The base is reached whenever the player touches it with any part of his body before the defender gains possession of the ball. So, if the batter hits the ball towards the first base, the umpire will activate the base corresponding to the third base area and the batter will run towards this base, and vice versa. This method is adopted in order to avoid accidents. If the runner reaches the base before the defending player gets the ball, a run will be awarded. If, on the contrary, the defending player regains possession of the ball before the runner reaches the base, the latter will be declared out. If any defending player catches a ball in the air, the innings will be declared over. That is, that play may be considered as one, two or three "outs", depending on the number remaining to finish the innings.

There is a line marking a distance of 180 feet (54 meters) from the home plate. If a batter hits a ball and it goes beyond this line, he will be awarded two runs.

The match will last for six innings, each consisting of two halves with three "outs" per team. The visiting team will bat first. The local team will not bat in the sixth innings if it is already winning when the visiting team finishes its batting turn in this innings.

There is a special ruling known as the "twelve-run rule" which states that, if, at the end of a complete innings, either team is leading by twelve runs or more, the opposing team will continue batting after its three "outs" are completed. Every three "outs" will count as an innings and the next one will then commence, and so on until they catch up with the winning team's score. Should this not occur until the sixth innings is finished, the game will be declared over. If, on the contrary, they draw level or surpass the winning team's score, the game will continue as normal. Nevertheless, the team that previously had a twelve-run lead, will not lose those turns which it did not take previously so as to permit the losing team to bat. If the umpire observes that play endangers some players at a given moment, he may stop the match. Said play will be declared void and the game will resume as if it had not taken place.


Goalball is a team sport played exclusively by the visually impaired. The object of the game is to roll a ball which contains bells past the opposing team. There are two teams of 3 players which alternate rolling and defending. The offensive team rolls the ball in a manner that is either hard or soft, depending upon player style, in an attempt to get the ball past the opposing three players. The defensive team listens for the approach of the ball and attempts to prevent or block the ball from crossing the line. The ball is rolled back and forth with the offensive and defensive team alternating until time expires for the half. The game is played in two five or seven minute periods and the team with the most points wins. There are women's and men's teams with no variations in equipment or rules.

Events - The USABA offers local, regional, national and international competition.

Special equipment - Clothing, gym shirt, shorts or sweats, a goalball, blindfolds, set of goals (not mandatory), tape for special markings on the floor.

To purchase goalball equipment can be purchased through USABA.


Judo is a competitive sport contested by two players from the same classifications. Judo matches can last as long as two or five minutes or as quickly as the time it takes to score a pin. The match is started with the contestants gripping or holding the shirt of the opponent. When the contestants are in proper starting position the referee will call "Hajime" (begin). Judo is similar to the sport of wrestling, the differences lie in the rules, the clothing and how points are scored.

Points may be scored by throwing your opponent to the mat, pinning your opponent to the mat, or through holds like arm bars which makes the opponent plea submission.

When the referee determines that a contestant has executed a proper action to score a point he will call "Ippon". Ippon signifies that one point has been scored and the match has ended.

Events - Events are conducted in local, regional, national and international tournaments. Athletes participate in specific weight classifications.

Special equipment - Mats (foam rubber), clothing in the form of a robe (judogi).

Nordic Skiing

Nordic or cross country skiing is a winter recreational/competitive sport that is pursued over generally flat areas or a combination of flat and hilly terrain. Nordic skis are long and narrow and are fastened to a cross country ski boot at the toe. The skier is also equipped with poles to help with balance and forward motion. Cross country skiing is much like jogging, alternating left and right while gliding over the terrain. Wax is applied on the bottom of each ski to grip on the snow as the alternating motion takes place. Cross country skiing generally takes place on surfaces in which tracks have been made by previous skiers. This facilitates cross country skiing for the blind/visually impaired and decreases the dependency upon a guide. The guide, however, is needed to assist avoiding obstacles and in navigating turns, and does so by calling directions to the skier.

Events - Nordic skiing can be recreational outing or a competitive event. The competitive events at the local, regional, national, and international level are:

Men 15k, 30k; Women 5k, 10k and 4x10 relay races

Special equipment - In addition to cross country ski equipment, it is important that each skier dress in layers of clothing. Skiers rapidly generate enough heat to stay warm and will want to remove a layer at a time to avoid overheating.


Powerlifting is a sport that has no age, sex or weight restriction on participants. There are three basic lifts that are conducted, both in recreational and competitive lifting. These three are described below:

Squat - Consists of squatting down and then rising again to a standing position while holding a bar with weights behind the head resting on the back of the shoulders.

Bench press - Lifter lies on his/her back on a horizontal bench, lowers a weighted bar to his/her chest and pushes it back up to arm's length by extending the arms.

Dead lift - A lift in which the weight is lifted from the floor to hip level with straight arms by the power of the back and legs, and then lowered to the ground again.

The object is to lift as much weight as possible in each of the three basic lifts. Generally, people start with lighter weights and improve their strength through practice, repetition and improved technique.

Events - Events are conducted at local, regional, national, and international levels. Classifications are made according to sex, age, and weight of each participant. The age categories are 14-19, 20-39, 40-49 and 50 years and up.

Special equipment - Weights or access to a weight room is necessary, and cooperation from one or more 'spotters' who assist in safety aspects. A lifting belt is strongly recommended to protect the lifters back.


Swimming is a sport with no age restrictions and may be pursued for fitness, recreation, or competition. Swimming is an outstanding sport for increasing overall fitness and body strength.

Special equipment - To aid the athlete in judging turns, a coach may tap the competitor when he/she nears the end of the pool. For this we have created a special device called a 'tapper'. A verbal count is given to inform the swimmer of the number of remaining laps in competition. A common practice of many of the USABA swimmers has been to count the strokes it takes to go from one end of the pool to the opposite end. This technique assists the swimmer in knowing when the end of the pool is being approached.

Events - USABA offers competition at the regional, national, and international level:

Butterfly 100 & 200 meters (50 & 100 for Masters)

Backstroke 100 & 200 meters (50 only for Masters)

Breaststroke 50, 100, 200 meters (50 only for Masters)

Freestyle 50, 100, 200, 400, 800 (women), 1500 (men) (50 &100 for Masters)

Individual medley or all 4 strokes in one race 200 & 400m (200 only for Masters)

Tandem Cycling

Tandem cycling is a sport for individuals interested competitive bicycle racing. The sport has two disciplines. Track racing and road racing. Track racing takes place on steeply banked track called a velodrome and road racing is as it sounds, on the road.

Track bikes have no brakes and only one gear, which is sized according to the riding style of the cyclist and the event. Road bikes vary widely between events and are specialized in nature, often incorporating aerodynamic design elements and sporting as many as 27 gears.

Both types of racing, however, share a common ground - the winner is not always the fastest rider. Strategy and knowing an opponent's strengths and weaknesses, can be important as speed.

Tandem cycling consists of two riders, the rider on the front, the pilot or captain, is sighted. The rear rider, the stoker, is visually impaired or totally blind. Events range from a few minutes for the kilometer on the track to a few hours on the road. Track events include the kilo (kilometer timed trial), sprints and pursuit races. Road events consist of road, time trials and criterium races.

Cycling is a sport that improves an individuals strength, endurance, balance, and conditioning, as well as developing character, commitment and dedication, which is used well beyond the sport and into an athletes life.

Requirements - Helmet (ANSI or Snell approved), high quality cycling shorts and jerseys and shoes with a cleat/pedal system must be worn. Ownership of, or ability to borrow a tandem is also very important.


Wrestling is for every size and shape person, both men and women. It is the most natural sport for the visually impaired because the two competitors must maintain contact with each other throughout the competition.

The sport is performed similarly to "sited" wrestling. The rules for international wrestling competitions have some modifications to render conditions more suitable for the visually impaired.

From the beginning of the competition contact is established between the two contestants in the standing position by the gentle overlapping of each hand over the hand of the opponent. Although each contestant may subsequently move and change this starting position, as long as there is some type of contact between the two contestants wrestling continues. Once contact is broken the referee will blow the whistle to reestablish.

Visually impaired wrestling was included in the 1984 Paralympic Games. Unfortunately the sport has not been since then due to a lack of interest. It is our goal to reinstate its inclusion in the 2004 Paralympic Games. In order to accomplish this, specific requirements must be met. There must be 18 countries, representing 3 continents participating in National Championships, Continental Championships, and World Championships. With the amount of interest received, our goal looks very attainable.

National Championships have been held in 15 countries for blind wrestling. There have also been three regional championships in which an average of three countries U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, have participated. World Championships have been organized in the Netherlands and the U.S. The interest in the sport of blind wrestling has greatly increased. Many countries, Algeria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Ghana, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kenya, Mexico City, Nigeria, Republic of South Africa, Russia, Sri Lanka, U.S.A and Zambia, have shown interest in developing programs for visually impaired wrestlers.


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