Blind and Low Vision

What does ‘legally blind’ and ‘low vision’ mean?

A child is considered ‘legally blind’ if they cannot see beyond six metres where someone with full 20/20 vision can see up to 60 metres. They are also considered ‘legally blind’ if their visual field is less than 20 degrees in diameter (versus 140 degrees for a person with normal vision.)

A child with ‘low vision’ has permanent vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses, affecting their ability to complete everyday tasks. Children with a vision impairment often have a degree of vision. As a coach, it is important to know about the type and severity of vision impairment a child has. This will allow you to develop ideas about ways to make activities safe, fun, and as inclusive as possible.

What might be some challenges on the footy field?

  • A child who is blind or has low vision will face challenges knowing where other people are on the footy field.
  • They may also have difficulty seeing a ball on the ground or being passed to them and seeing a target they are aiming for during kicking or handballing.

If unsure, ask the child or their parents

Children with vision impairment may have a certain degree of vision, particularly under certain situations. For example, it may help if you stand directly in front of the child or to one side, or the child may be able to see bright colours better than dull colours. If you are unsure, ask the child or their parents.

Communication strategies

  • Always tell the child your name when you start talking with them, even if you have met them many times before.
  • In a group setting, make sure you use a child’s name when calling out to them or talking with them.
  • Before you pass the ball make sure you ask the child if they are ready and wait for their response before passing.
  • When giving instructions, be as specific and clear as possible. For example, try not to use words like ‘here’ or ‘there’. Instead, brainstorm more concrete ways of identifying targets that draw on other senses like hearing or touch. For example, place a cone on the ground to mark a place to kick from rather than using a line on the ground.

Help the child move safely around the footy field

If you are providing hands-on assistance to help a child with vision impairment move around, allow the child to take your arm, hand or elbow, and walk beside them but slightly in front. This will help them feel when you are changing direction. Help them to prepare for changes (e.g. walking surface, direction, elevation) in advance by telling them what is coming.

Modify the environment to make it safe and predictable

  • A safe venue with fences and closed gates may help both parents and kids feel at ease.
  • Keep the environment as clean and clutter free as possible.
  • Do not move items without telling the child.

Modify equipment and maximise the use of other body senses

  • Use balls with bells: Attaching a bell to the football or using a ball with a bell inside will allow the child to hear where the ball is, and will help them track where it is moving.
  • Use bells to identify targets: For one-to-one games or drills, giving a bell to the person who is the target will assist the child with vision impairment to know where to kick or pass the ball. Adding a beeping marker in between the goalposts can help the child aim the football when kicking.
  • Increase the visual contrast between items: For example, use brightly coloured footballs, put coloured fabric around the goalposts, and use brightly coloured tape around boundary lines.
  • Increase the use of touch where possible: Drills can be modified to increase reliance on touch. For example, a rope with a piece of rubber pipe around it can be hung between two poles, allowing the child to use the rope as a guide to move between markers independently.

Build a culture of teamwork

  • Consider pairing the child with a buddy: The buddy can help guide the child around the football field and during activities.
  • Encourage the child’s parent to get involved in the NAB AFL Auskick activities as needed.
  • Work with the child and parent to brainstorm ways to modify activities, while staying true to the goal of the activity as much as possible.
  • Consider doing activities in small groups where the other children are blindfolded, allowing all kids to participate in the same way (reverse inclusion).

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