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Inside Events: United States Association of Blind Athletes

3 Oct, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Courtney E. Patterson, Marketing and Public Relations Manager

The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) was founded in 1976 with the purpose of improving the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired. That year, 27 young men and women were selected to represent the United States in the first Olympiad for the Disabled in Toronto, Canada. Today, USABA has evolved into a national organization that provides sports opportunities to thousands of children, youth, adults and veterans who are blind and visually impaired.  USABA programs serve athletes of all ages and abilities from local grassroots programs to the elite Paralympic level.

USABA is a Colorado-based 501(c) (3) organization that provides life-enriching sports opportunities for every individual with a visual impairment.  A member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, USABA provides athletic opportunities in various sports including, but not limited to track and field, Nordic and alpine skiing, biathlon, judo, wrestling, swimming, tandem cycling, powerlifting and goalball (a team sport for the blind and visually impaired). In addition, USABA has the mission of changing society’s negative stereotypes concerning the abilities of blind people as well as other disabled individuals. 

Sports Destination Management: You have a major event coming up: Blind Sports Day.

Courtney Patterson: Yes – it’s coming up on October 6.

SDM: It sounds like a great opportunity for event owners to get involved with the larger community. How many years has it been offered?

Patterson: This is the inaugural year.

SDM: We understand sports event organizers have been encouraged to host inclusive events.

Patterson: Yes, USABA has a list of all events, as well as information on Blind Sports Day itself, on its website. 

SDM: How do people register their events?

Patterson: Event directors and organizations should register their event here.

SDM: What type of participation have you seen so far?

PattersonWe're up to 34 events across 20 cities in the U.S. Registered organizations are hosting all kinds of sports opportunities for participants including beep baseball, goalball, blind soccer and tandem cycling. We have two gyms hosting events in which they will introduce participants to equipment, give demonstrations on using the equipment and then conduct a group workout. We also have an organization that is hosting a 5k walk/run for NBSD where participants can get their steps in! We’re excited about the variety of sports and activities participating organizations are offering. It shows just how many options there are out there for people with visual impairments to lead more active lifestyles.

SDM: What was the impetus behind offering Blind Sports Day?

Patterson: Raising awareness about all of these different opportunities is important because obesity rates are oftentimes higher among people with visual impairments due to barriers (i.e. transportation, income) and misconceptions about their abilities. More than half of the people who are blind and visually impaired in the United States do not participate in even a limited physical fitness routine, but research has shown when those individuals become active with the goal of improving their health, they have higher energy levels, a lower risk of health-related diseases, improved psychological health, and lower rates of depression and anxiety.

SDM: How would you suggest event directors go about promoting sports to the blind and VI community?

Patterson: Reach out to local agencies serving the blind and visually impaired in your community and ask them to send information about your NBSD event to their membership. USABA will be glad to promote all the registered activities.

SDM: Are there some good grassroots ways to grow awareness, since the event is coming up soon?

Patterson: Yes – people can still participate! We encourage them to simply get moving on October 6th and post about it on social media using #BlindSportsDayYou can also RSVP on the Facebook event to connect with people across the country who will be participating. People who want a virtual workout buddy to hold them accountable can check out the #FitAnthem5k wellness experience that can be done anywhere on October 6th.

Editor’s note: Some events coming up after National Blind Sports Day include the following. Event directors interested in working with USABA and learning more about attracting athletes who are blind or who have visual impairments can also contact USABA or check its calendar of events.

Partial Calendar of Events:

October 5-7: Lakeshore Goalball Tournament - Birmingham, Alabama

October 6: National Blind Sports Day and Fit Anthem Virtual 5k

November 1-3: 2018 USABA Goalball High School National Championships - St. Augustine, Florida 

November 6-11: No Sight No Limits Triathlon Camp - Chula Vista, California

November 10-18: IBSA World Powerlifting & Bench Press Championships - Luxor, Egypt 

December 2: 2018 USABA Marathon National Championships sponsored by Hanson McClain - Sacramento, California

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