A group of visually impaired teenagers tried a new activity on the Upper West Side on Saturday: adaptive blind baseball.
Teenage students from after-school programs of Lighthouse Guild, a local non-profit organization that provides services to the visually impaired, arrived at the ball diamonds at Riverside Park near 72nd Street, thrilled to learn a new game. event is the result of a collaboration between the Lighthouse Guild and the NY Rockers, an adult-friendly blind baseball league that plays out in Central Park.
Adaptive baseball, designed for the visually impaired, was invented in Italy over 25 years ago and then introduced to the United States. It uses auditory stimuli to compensate for the visual aspects of sport. The ball itself has tinkling bells with openings, so players can hear the ball as it approaches and makes contact with the bat.
Most of the teenagers had never played baseball before, so the event started with the basics. Working with sighted volunteers and NY Rockers players, Lighthouse faculty divided students into groups and taught them how to throw and hit.
Volunteers stood at first and second base, creating sounds designed to help players orient themselves in space. For example, the first base volunteer used a tool to make a horn sound, while the second base volunteer used one that made a clapping sound. By following these sounds, players were able to run the bases and complete the trip to home plate.
For many students, the event was an important opportunity to exercise outdoors and experience a sport that is usually difficult for people with visual impairments.
“[As] someone with vision loss, you might think you don’t have many ways to do things. And a lot of things don’t seem as accessible,” says Jaydan Mitchell, Youth Services Coordinator at Lighthouse Guild. “Going to the gym doesn’t seem as accessible. Swimming, playing sports. So we want them to know that there are options. And they are fun! And they are normal!
Lily, a 14-year-old from Queens, says she was thrilled with the opportunity. “It’s really nice to go outside. I like baseball.
Despite the challenges she and her fellow students face due to their visual impairments, Lily expressed her optimism and said she has been able to enjoy a variety of activities through The Lighthouse’s programs.
“[My vision loss] didn’t make it too difficult,” she says. “And yes, the program makes it easier. They adjust things so that we can do them. If I [were] just playing baseball i [wouldn’t] being able to see where something is.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Mitchell said. “So that they have fun and move.”