Sports for Visual Impaired

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Sports Clubs & Organizations

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Persons who are Blind or have Visual Impairments can take part and benefit from activities like Sports, Hobbies and other physical activities. These activities are a good way to increase the verbal, social, and mobility skills of children with Visual Impairments. Being active in music, clubs, sport and other after-school programs can help children to strengthen their language skills, gain physical agility as well as confidence, and understand social situations. Parents and teachers who push students with Visual Impairments to have as normal experience as possible, not only help them gain skills and develop self-reliance, but also help other students understand how to work with people who are different. Adults who are Blind or have Visual Impairments, also benefit from Sports and Hobbies, as these activities not only help prevent depression, but can also help them to meet other people and remove some of the stigma associated with having a disability. Many Sports persons with Visual Impairments inspire others and help society learn about persons with disabilities. Blind and partially sighted people can participate in sports, such as swimming, Judo, athletics and many more. Some sports have been invented or adapted for the blind, such as goalball, association football, cricket, golf, and tennis. The worldwide authority on sports for the blind is the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSF).

Disability Sports in South Africa are both very popular & successful. Athletes with Visual Impairments are included in the Paralympics Games, where the South African Paralympics team has consistently finished near the top of the medal table at every Summer Paralympics Games since the country was re-admitted. Sportsman with impairments in South Africa have in-fact outperformed their able bodied teams by some distance. Disabled sports have improved remarkably since 1970, with some earning a living from their sport.


There are a variety of sports tournaments that a person who is Blind or Visually Impaired can compete in. They include:

  • The Paralympic Games
  • IBSA World Championships and Games

Paralympic Games

The Paralympic Games comprise all the sports contested in the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. As of 2016, the Summer Paralympics will include 22 sports and 526 medal events, and the Winter Paralympics include 5 sports and disciplines and about 72 events. The number and kinds of events may change from one Paralympic Games to another.

The Paralympic Games are a major international multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities which includes blindness. Paralympic sports refers to organized competitive sporting activities as part of the global Paralympic movement. These sports are organized and run under the supervision of the International Paralympic Committee and other international sports federations.

Athletes with visual impairment ranging from partial vision, sufficient to be judged legally blind, to total blindness. This includes impairment of one or more component of the visual system (eye structure, receptors, optic nerve pathway, and visual cortex). The sighted guides for athletes with a visual impairment are such a close and essential part of the competition that the athlete with visual impairment and the guide are considered a team. Beginning in 2012, these guides (along with sighted goalkeepers in 5-a-side football became eligible to receive medals of their own. People with vision impairments have participated in the Paralympic Games since the 1976 Toronto summer Paralympics

The IBSA World Championships

The IBSA World Championships and Games is held every four years. The first games took place in 1998 in Madrid, Spain. This Tournament is organized & run by The International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), which is a nonprofit organization founded 1981 in Paris, France.

IBSA's mission is to promote the full integration of blind and partially sighted people in society through sport and to encourage people with a visual impairment to take up and practice sports. IBSA is a full and founding member of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

IBSA is the international federation for several sports for people with a visual impairment, including three Paralympic sports (Five-a-side football, Goalball and Judo), Powerlifting, Ten-pin bowling, Nine-pin bowling, Torball, Athletics, Alpine skiing, Biathlon, Swimming, Shooting, Archery, Showdown, Nordic skiing, and Cycling.

IBSA also organizes world and regional championships in many of its sports. Regional or continental championships are generally held in odd years, while world championships take place every four years in even years when there are no Paralympic Games.


The B3 classification is used, in order for athletes of varying degrees of visual impairment to be able to compete. The classification process is a medical based Paralympics classification for blind sport. Competitors in this classification have partial sight, with visual acuity from 2/60 to 6/60. It is used by a number of blind sports including Para-alpine skiing, Para-Nordic skiing, blind cricket, blind golf, five-a-side football, goal ball and judo. Some other sports, including adaptive rowing, athletics and swimming, have equivalents to this class.

Athletes with visual impairment ranging from partial vision, sufficient to be judged legally blind, to total blindness. This includes impairment of one or more component of the visual system (eye structure, receptors, optic nerve pathway, and visual cortex).

The B3 classification was first created by the IBSA in the 1970s, and has largely remained unchanged since despite an effort by the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) to move towards a more functional and evidence-based classification system. Classification is often handled on the international level by the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) although it is also handled by national sport federations. There are exceptions for sports like athletics and cycling.

B3 Classification

Eligible Paralympics sports for the B3 classification include adaptive rowing, athletics, cycling five-a-side football, goal ball, judo, Para-alpine skiing, Para-Nordic skiing, and swimming. On the Paralympics level, a number of disability sports are not open to this classification or other visually impaired competitors including archery, basketball, boccia, curling, fencing, ice sledge hockey, power lifting, rugby, shooting, table tennis, tennis, volleyball. Equestrian sport is not open to Paralympics sport in this classification, and the FEI classification system has no parallel classification available for other levels of national and international competition. For non-Paralympics sports or sports removed from the Paralympics programme, the classification is used in blind golf and lawn bowls.

Performance can differ for this class compared to other blind classes. In swimming, the B1 class is significantly slower than B2 and B3 classes in 100 meter freestyle. The B3 class is significantly faster than B1 and B2 in the 100 meter backstroke.

Equipment & Guides

Some Sports don't require adapted equipment but some Sports and Hobbies require the assistance of adapted Sports Equipment Aids so that Persons with Visual Impairments can take part. An increasing number of persons with disabilities are participating in sports, leading to the development of new assistive technology. Equipment utilized by competitors in the B3 class may differ from sport to sport, and may include sighted guides, guide rails, beeping balls and slapsticks. There may be some modifications related to equipment and rules to specifically address needs of competitors in this class to allow them to compete in specific sports. Some sports specifically do not allow a guide, whereas cycling and skiing require one.

The use of a sighted guide by people in this class is dependent on the specific requirements of the sport. In athletics, where the parallel classification is T13, runners do not use guides in competition and generally do not use them in training. In cycling, this classification uses a guide, while utilizing a tandem bicycle with the guide sitting at the front. When a cyclist is looking for a guide, they are encouraged to find one with a pace similar to their own.

Equipment is utilized by competitors in this class and The sighted guides for athletes with a visual impairment are such a close and essential part of the competition that the athlete with visual impairment and the guide are considered a team. Beginning in 2012, these guides (along with sighted goalkeepers in 5-a-side football became eligible to receive medals of their own.

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SASAPD (South African Sports Association for Physically Disabled)

SASAPD (South African Sports Association for Physically Disabled) was establishment in 1962. The focus of the organisation is to develop and promote the sporting codes offered at Paralympic level for athletes with physical disabilities, visual impairment and blindness.

They offer pathways through their affiliations with international bodies such as IBSA, IWAS and CPISRA and The Nedbank National Championships for Physically Disabled, as recognised steps towards Paralympic Games qualification across a variety of sports.

They work and are an affiliate member of SASCOC as well as being associated members of a number of other national sporting federations.

You can visit their web site at

Types of Sport

Many disabled sports are based on existing able bodied sports, modified to meet the needs of persons with a disability, they are sometimes referred to as adapted sports. Not all disabled sports are adapted, several sports have been specifically created for persons with a disability & have no equivalent in able-bodied sports.

People with disabilities benefit from physical activity, and the barriers to being active are starting to come down. A wide variety of activities have been adapted so people of all abilities can participate. So go out and get active!

Sports appropriate for my disability

Below are a list of a few sports that are available to the Blind & individuals with Visual Impairments in South Africa. These sports are available at social, club & Provincial level, while some are available at the Paralympics & The IBSA World Championships, where the classification process is used. To view all the sports listed, view the buttons on the left.

Archery & Judo

Both Archery and Judo are available for individuals who are Blind or have Visual Impairment's. Both sports are competed in at social, club & Provincial level, as well as at International level. They are both available at the Paralympics and are not only  a source of fun, but great exercise, a challenge, teachers discipline, & is a great way to meet new people.

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Athletics & Swimming

Both Athletics & Swimming are available for the blind at the Paralympic Games, where the classification process is used. Both sports are enjoyed at social, club & Provincial level, as well as at International level. Both Athletics & Swimming in South African is governed by SASCOC " South Africa’s Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee." They not only help look after all our various National Federations who are affiliated to them, but are responsible for the awarding for National Protea Colours to athletes who have met the criteria to represent South Africa in these different sporting codes, however these sports are available to all who wish to participate.


Blind Cricket

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has three Disability entities affiliated to organisation, of which Blind Cricket South Africa (BCSA) is one of them. Currently the only assistance provided to them is a grant aimed at assisting the entities to conduct their Interprovincial Tournaments. CSA has also assisted the entities in the past with resources to partake or host International events.

Blind Cricket is a special version of the game adapted for blind and partially sighted sports players.  It has governed by the World Blind Cricket Council (WBCC) since 1996.

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Cycling for the Disabled was first developed by blind cyclists who first competed using tandem bicycles. Cycling was introduced as a Paralympic Sport in Seoul in 1988. Depending on their classification, athletes use a bicycle, tricycle, tandem or hand cycle. Cycling can be competed in, in both track or road events for individuals and teams with Sprints, Individual Pursuits, 1,000m Time Trial, Road Races and Road Time Trials. These events are for both men and women. The competition includes persons with a visual impairment, cerebral palsy, amputations or other physical disabilities can participate in classes depending on their degree of function and the skills required for Cycling. Athletes are classified in accordance with the nature & severity of their disability or combinations of disabilities and can competed at social, club & Provincial level, as well as at International level.


Golf & Bowls

Both Golf & Bowls are available to most individuals with Visual Impairments in South Africa. The classification process is used to guarantee that no matter your disability, everyone can compete on an even footing. Both sports are played at social, club & Provincial level, as well as at International level.



Paragliding is the recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing comprising a large number of interconnected baffled cells. Wing shape is maintained by the suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing, and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.

Despite not using an engine, a paragliders flight can last many hours and cover many hundreds of kilometers, though flights of one to two hours and covering some tens of kilometers are more the norm. By skillful exploitation of sources of lift, the pilot may gain height, often climbing to altitudes of a few thousand meters. Paragliding takes allot of skill and hours of practice, but this does not mean that you can't enjoy the thrill of paragliding even if you have a disability.


Scuba Diving

Scuba Diving is a very popular recreational activity for disabled & able people all across the world, not to mention in our beautiful waters & climate of South Africa. If you love the weightless feeling you get when swimming, then scuba diving may be a great sport for you. Being Blind or having a visual Impairment need not prevent you from trying Scuba Diving. The Handicapped Scuba Association promotes scuba diving around the world. They cater for a wide variety of disabilities, including the blind or Visually Impaired. Each year they also plan scuba trips to exotic locations led by specially trained scuba divers and individuals who are wheelchair users so that you are ensured a safe and comfortable scuba experience.


Please send us information on any other sport.


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