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Exploring the World of Adapted Physical Education: Enhancing Inclusivity for Blind and Low Vision Students: Introduction to Paralympic Sports

A blindfolded man wearing a USA athletic shirt and a runner’s bib with the name “BROWN” on it raises his arms high in a victorious stance as the man standing beside him, who is wearing a bright orange shirt with the word “GUIDE” on it, claps. The two men appear to be standing in a stadium. A small pop up at the bottom of the image reads “3, USA, David R Brown - T11” with a small American flag by the word “USA.”

Participating in a sport is a fun way to exercise and learn how to work as a team. We spoke with APH Engagement Specialist and Paralympian Amanda Dennis and Paralympian David Brown about what the Paralympics are, the types of sports included in these competitions, and how students who are blind or low vision can get involved.

Paralympic Games Overview

The Paralympic Games are summer and winter sports competitions for athletes who have physical and intellectual disabilities. Athletes who compete can be blind or low vision, have autism, Cerebral Palsy (CP), a brain injury, missing limbs, limbs that don’t have full movement, or who may be paralyzed. David said, “We’re high-performing athletes that compete on a high scale.” Learn more about the Paralympic classifications.

Like the Olympics, the Paralympics contain opening and closing ceremonies with televised events. The Paralympics are in the same country as and take place 2 ½ to 3 weeks after the Olympic Games.

Currently, there are 28 Paralympic sports: 22 summer and 6 winter. Summer sports include para-archery, blind football, goalball, track and field, and more. Winter sports include para-alpine skiing, para cross-country skiing, para snowboarding, and more. Amanda said, “The Paralympic Program changes every four years depending on the host country and how sports are developing amongst the countries in the world.” Sports can be added or removed from future Paralympic Games.

Visit the Paralympics website to learn more about the history of the games and find the full list of sports.

Paralympic Experiences

Amanda Dennis is a three-time goalball Paralympian. Her team finished 6th in the London 2012 games. In Rio 2016, she won a bronze medal, and in Tokyo 2020, she won a silver medal. Although her team did not qualify for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, Amanda is looking forward to competing in the L.A. Paralympic Games in 2028. Read our goalball blog to learn more about Amanda’s Paralympic journey.

David Brown has been playing sports since he was four years old. He played basketball until he lost his vision at age 11. Afterwards, he participated in goalball, track and field, and wrestling at the Missouri School for the Blind before he began training more intently in track and field for the Paralympics. As a runner, David uses a tether and sprints with a guide while wearing a blindfold. David has competed in three Paralympic Games: London 2012, Rio 2016, and Tokyo 2020. He ran in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and the 400-meter races and received a gold medal in the 100-meter race in Rio 2016. In July, David will be running in a qualifying track meet for Paris 2024 in his home city, Chula Vista, California. After the Paris games, David has decided to retire from track and field and compete in blind soccer in the L.A. 2028 games.

When asked about the best part of being in the Paralympics, Amanda said, “I think for me it would be that you’re able to show the abilities that you have on the world stage. I met my husband through Paralympic sport, and we likely wouldn’t have met otherwise, with him being from Germany. The friendships you make, the places you go, and the competition you bring into your life pushes you to be the best that you want to be.” David agreed with Amanda about the value of connecting with different athletes. He said, “You get to meet other athletes and learn about their stories. To learn about other people’s disabilities and how they’re able to do what they’re doing is exciting.”

Student Involvement

There are many ways students who are blind or low vision can learn about Paralympic sports. Often, schools for the blind will have adaptive sports, which are also Paralympic sports, for students to participate in. One example of this is goalball. Students who live in California can join Angel City Sports, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that provides year-round sports opportunities. Angel City Sports also hosts Angel City Games, a weekend-long event that includes sports clinics and competitions for individuals of all ages with physical disabilities and visual impairments. David said, “I’ll go up and I’ll teach people how to play blind soccer.” He also helps with track and field. This event is a good way to expose everyone to Paralympic sports. Learn more about Angel City Sports. Students in St. Louis or Columbia, Missouri should check out the Disabled Athlete Sport Association, which offers training programs to help players take their first step toward becoming Paralympians. The Paralympic website also has a list of resources for high school students, and the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes has a list of sports organizations broken down by state for athletes on their Get Involved page.

David advised to try a variety of sports and then focus on one to compete in. He said, “Find something that you love and go for it.” Amanda added, “Be open to jump in headfirst, and know the sports are always evolving. You, as an athlete, have the chance to be anything you want to be in Paralympic sport.”

Start playing a sport today and keep up with the latest news about the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

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