Bringing Tennis to the Blind and Visually Impaired

September 25, 2023
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In a groundbreaking move, USTA Southern has expanded tennis accessibility for the visually impaired. Dana Costa and David Dilettuso, through the United States Blind Tennis Association (USBTA), pioneered efforts to teach tennis to blind and visually impaired (BVI) individuals.

BVI tennis involves shorter courts, audible balls, shorter racquets, and tactile lines. To facilitate this, USTA Southern organized a workshop in Macon, Georgia, where 25 tennis professionals and volunteers from three states learned to instruct the BVI population. The workshop, held at the Georgia Academy for the Blind, aimed to equip coaches with the skills needed to teach tennis effectively to BVI individuals.

On September 22-23, coaches experienced simulated blindness using makeshift glasses, gaining insight into BVI tennis techniques and empathizing with their future students. The training progressed from assessment to rallying with BVI equipment, emphasizing the unique challenges faced by BVI athletes. The second day welcomed 20 visually impaired children, showcasing the transformative power of BVI tennis.

Josie St. John, a student at the academy, captured the essence of the experience: “It was fun being able to serve the ball over the net. It was very powerful what you guys showed us. You showed me I have a talent. I never thought I could do this. It’s inspirational.”

David Dilettuso, from the United States Blind Tennis Association, emphasized the importance of coaches choosing descriptive and concise language while respecting the courage of BVI athletes.

USTA Southern, well-represented at the workshop, demonstrated its commitment to inclusive tennis. Former President & CEO Randy Stephens, STF Chairman Bonnie Vandegrift, and staffers Bill Dopp, Allan Jensen and Cee Jai Jones

As Atlanta tennis pro Jamie Myers-Watkins aptly put it, “It’s life-changing.” In the spirit of this initiative, tennis transcends boundaries, empowering individuals to embrace the transformative power of the sport.

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