The United States Association of Blind Athletes

by Sarah K. Bradley

The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) is a community based organization of the United States Olympic Committee and serves individuals who are blind or visually impaired across the United States. Our vision is a world in which all individuals who are blind or visually impaired have the opportunity to discover their athletic potential and pursue their athletic dreams.

USABA emerged in 1976 when a group of individuals met at the Olympics for the Disabled in Toronto, Ontario to discuss their vision of the future of sport for athletes with visual impairments. In the beginning, founder Arthur Copeland ran the organization from his kitchen table on a shoe string budget in Beach Haven, New Jersey. Since then, USABA has evolved into a national organization that provides sports opportunities in eleven sports which impact the lives of more than 2,000 athletes of all ages and abilities each year and has reached more than 100,000 individuals in it's 30 years of operation. The organization has emerged as more than just a world-class trainer of blind athletes, it has become a champion of the abilities of Americans who are legally blind. In fact, USABA athletes have served as U.S. Olympic Team members and won medals against sighted competitors. USABA had thirty-four of its athletes compete in the 2006 Rocky Mountain State Games, the first state games in the nation to fully integrate athletes who are blind and visually impaired into competition. More than 25 medals were earned by USABA athletes from the ages of 7 through adult who were able to showcase their talents and abilities in a competition with more than 5,000 competitors.

Sports Education Camps

Each summer, USABA chapters around the country hold Sports Education Camps for youth ages 5-18. The first Sports Education Camp (SEC) took place in 1988 after a group of adult athletes with visual impairments identified the problem within physical education and sports for children with visual impairments. Their goal was to teach youth with visual impairments basic sports skills and activities, increase the knowledge of parents, teachers and the community regarding adaptations required for participation, and in turn increase access to physical education, sports and recreation for people with visual impairments.

Today, SEC's take place in ten different states around the country, each summer offering youth the opportunity to participate in a variety of sports and recreation activities, including judo, cycling, track & field, swimming, wrestling, goalball, gymnastics, bowling, and rock climbing. Paralympic athletes and elite coaches are involved in these residential programs.

Through an affiliation with Western Michigan University, research has been conducted concerning the outcomes from these camps. The research done at the SEC's has shown that skills learned at the camps have had a continuing positive impact on the lives of these participating young athletes. In fact, more than 45% of students who attended sports camp for two consecutive years participated on their home school sports teams. In addition, 80% of these youth participated in their school physical education programs, compared to 27% of blind and visually impaired youth overall. Research has also shown that participants have also learned how to adapt sports to their needs in a school or extracurricular setting, creating an advocate within the child.

USABA strives to make possible for all individuals who are blind and visually impaired the opportunity to discover their true potential and overcome obstacles and identifying their abilities. With the growth of self confidence, leadership, poise and determination that sport provides, these athletes can become advocates for themselves, role models for others, and help to break down the stereo types that follow "disability." As our US Paralympic teams continue to train every day for the honor to represent Team USA, USABA also continues to support young athletes who are blind and visually impaired in order for them to reach their full potential, their athletic goals, and their dreams!

The United States Association of Blind Athletes is pleased to announce that the National Headquarters Offices have moved to the U.S. Olympic Sport House in Colorado Springs, CO. USABA's new contact information is:

USABA
1 Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Phone: 719-866-3224
Web: http://www.usaba.org

“In alignment with our strategic plan and our vision to be the nation’s leading sports resource provider for people who are blind and visually impaired, the move into the United States Olympic Committee’s Sport House further fosters our organizational growth which can only better serve our athletes," said Mark Lucas, USABA Executive Director. He continued, "I would also like to thank the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind for providing office space to USABA for over twenty years.”

The U.S. Olympic Sport House is also home to several National Governing Bodies, including USA Boxing, USA Weightlifting, USA Judo, USA Badminton and USA Taekwondo.

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