Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Table Tennis and Air Hockey Combine to Create a Game for the Blind

Have you ever heard of a game called PowerShowdown? Well, join the majority of people in the United States. While invented in Canada and played rather extensively in other parts of the world, somehow it never managed to cross the borders into mainstream usage.

PowerShowdown, known internationally as Showdown, is a combination of table tennis and air hockey. Invented in the 1960s by Joe Lewis and Geraldine York, the game is specifically designed so individuals with visual impairments or blindness (VI or B) can play without sighted assistance. Additional rules have evolved from different parts of the world to make the game what it is today.

PowerShowdown has seen little use in the United States simply because most people are unaware of its existence. The tables are also expensive and difficult to obtain since they have to be ordered from Europe. Jim Mastro, Ph.D., has been working with a group at Bemidji State University in Minnesota to manufacture the tables in the United States. Considering the possibilities for social interaction as well as recreational or competitive sport, PowerShowdown is well worth discovering.

The game is inexpensive to start up, requires minimal maintenance, and can be played in a room the size of a classroom or meeting room. The only equipment needed is the specially designed table, two paddles, special ball into which metal bee bees have been inserted, and perhaps a glove for the batting hand. Sound produced by the bee bees rolling around inside the ball indicates the location of the ball during the play.

Showdown is easy to learn. The object of the game is to bat the ball off the side wall, along the table, under the centre screen, and into the opponent´s goal. the first player to reach eleven points, leading by two or more points, is the winner. Each player serves five times in a row. Player score two points for a goal and one point when their opponent hits the ball into the screen, hits the ball off the table, or touches the ball with anything but the bat.

The game of PowerShowdown has many benefits. Kinesthetic awareness, ear/hand coordination, and spatial awareness all come into play. The greatest benefit is the social aspect. It allows people with VI or B to compete and interact with other people. PowerShowdown could replace table tennis or air hockey in the family recreation room, providing an opportunity for participation with a competitive twist for entire families. It will help integrate individuals with VI or B into the general population.

The tables are $2,800.00 plus shipping and handling. Each is individually crafted and comes with two paddles and two balls. For additional information, click this link to contact Jim Mastro via email at
A text file of the official rules can be found at

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