It’s Judah’s favorite school subject: science. As his teacher explains theories about gravity, space, and earth, Judah’s mind is whizzing. “I really like to learn about how things work, how things were made, how things are, and how things happen,” he says enthusiastically. He envisions himself becoming an astronaut someday and gets lost in a daydream getting ready for takeoff. His spaceship starts to rattle, he buckles his seatbelt, a countdown to takeoff begins…3…2…1…the recess bell rings.
Doors fly open and adrenaline sweeps the kids from their desks out to the playground. A sense of freedom fills the air as someone kicks a ball towards the field, others vigorously pump their legs on the swings, and laughter echoes from all across the yard.
For Judah, it’s time to grab the beeping disc he loaned from Northwest Association for Blind Athletes this year.
Judah’s school, like many, does not have adaptive equipment readily available for students who are blind or visually impaired. “The disc that we got from NWABA was awesome because it was the first time…he had something to play with [at school]. He would say ‘I can find the disc’…and his friends could find him,” says his mom, Anastassia.
It was earlier this year that Judah and his family were introduced to Northwest Association for Blind Athletes (NWABA). At first, they found Camp Spark, an overnight sports camp specifically designed to support and empower youth who are blind and visually impaired. Judah, being an active kid, was excited and nervous about this opportunity – but he did not let nerves stop him.
While waiting for Camp Spark to start, they continued to explore other programs offered by NWABA. The Sports Outreach program offers many of the same activities that Judah loves such as swimming, baseball, and tandem cycling. The challenge is that his family lives 2+ hours away from where the events are offered and they are not easily accessible.
Then, Judah’s TVI (Teacher for Visually Impaired) told them about NWABA’s Adaptive Equipment Lending Library, which offers adaptive equipment to individuals, schools, and organizations to borrow at no cost – wherever they live. This equipment became quite literally a game-changer for Judah, opening a whole new world of opportunities to explore right in his own community.
As Judah and Anastassia sifted through the different types of balls and equipment offered by NWABA, Judah added nearly every item to his wishlist. Judah worked with his mom and his TVI to develop a plan so that he could lend out different types of equipment throughout the year. His first loan was a beeping disc.
This disc is special because it includes a beeping device that allows him to play with his peers. He can hear it twirl through the air as he tosses it to a friend far away. His friends form a circle, continuing to swing the disc to one another. They laugh, yell, and play together just like everyone else at recess.
Most school-aged youth who are blind or visually impaired are excluded from physical education at school or physical activities in their communities like soccer teams, football leagues, and more. Adaptive equipment is often unaffordable or unavailable, and not all coaches or physical educators are trained in adapting sports for all abilities. With your support, we can provide the tools and resources to support youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired in schools, at home, and in their own communities through NWABA’s Lending Library.
As of today, Judah has received a beeping disc, a bell basketball, and a beeping baseball which allow him to be included in recess, P.E., and other activities at home from NWABA. Adaptive equipment encourages him to play sports with his friends and stay active throughout the year, even when he isn’t at Camp Spark.
With the support of NWABA, Judah feels empowered to play with his friends at school and at home, confidently and safely. He feels included when he is able to participate in recess alongside his sighted peers. “He speaks and advocates for himself now,” says Anastassia.
Judah is a go-getter with a drive to accomplish more. He loves NWABA because we encourage him to keep exploring, to keep learning and growing, and to keep building momentum towards accomplishing his dreams, “…it is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.” Just like Judah, NWABA believes that visual impairments are not a barrier to playing a game, being part of a team, or believing you belong.
When NWABA started in 2007, we had one program and six athletes. Twelve years later, we are reaching 1,700 athletes across the Northwest through six unique programs that are designed to support individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and stages of life. This last year, NWABA loaned out 256 pieces of equipment to individuals, schools, and organizations to provide opportunities for individuals who are blind or visually impaired to participate.
Anastassia hopes that someday Judah can accomplish his goals of becoming an astronaut, scientist, or inventor. “Judah never limits us, he wants to do anything possible.” She is grateful for resources like NWABA’s adaptive equipment and Camp Spark which strengthen his confidence and independence, relationships with others, and pursuit of an active, healthy lifestyle.
PS. Click here to read about Judah’s journey through Camp Spark!
We will continue to expand our reach and ensure that all children, youth, and adults who are blind or visually impaired have access to the sports and physical activities that they love.
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