Updated: 6 days ago
Coaching clients with a visual impairment is very different and comes with its own set of precautions and safety parameters. This is an area I've had extensive experience with in recent years..... and as with ALL coaching..... effective communication is at the core of a successful session.
Fitness goals and health improvements need to be met as well a providing a safe environment to training. An individual with a visual impairment is exceptionally reliant on their coach to enjoy a successful training session. ⬇️
Varying environments bring different safety aspects and most of it comes down to good prep. This includes making sure the ground whether indoors or outdoors is free from obstacles or trip hazards.
A visually impaired person often needs comprehensive guidance to get into position. This may involve physical contact of which permission must be sought first. No matter how small. Minimal arm touch for example or positioning a lower limb into a stable position. A pole can be used to line up foot positions for example.
Verbal instruction must be clear and precise as always.
In an outdoor setting, care must be taken to check the ground for hidden dents or holes, especially on grass. Short grass can hide dents that can twist an ankle or a knee.
If a distance is needed for running then that line of route must be checked and also several feet either side. That means walking it, running it and feeling every step of it yourself beforehand. 👈
The whole "dynamic" changes with a visual impairment.
Body position awareness is commonly limited meaning exercises can take longer to do, especially if you are going to teach that client new exercises. That has to be factored in when session planning, with the expected outcomes for that session.
Also, extra care must be taken if the client makes a couple of steps after an exercise as very few people stay exactly still! There are also environmental hazards such as trees, posts, fences, possible dogs..... that would typically not be of issue for a client without a visual impairment.
Training in an indoor facility has a whole host of hazards. Trip hazards..... the metal bases of machines, water bottles, wet floors by the water machine, and nearby gym users and actions.....
Resistance machines can come into their own here because of the fixed positioning..... (be extra careful climbing in and out with the head) but that is dependant on goals etc.
Cardio machines are very useful such as bikes and cross trainers and again it depends on the requirements as well as ability..... as to what equipment could be used. There are a lot more pointers.....
🔶 WHEN A VISUAL IMPAIRMENT OCCURRED IS IMPORTANT
When did the visual impairment occur? An important question to ask and know the answer to. This can directly affect methods of instruction particularly with cues for body positioning.
Why is knowing when sight loss occurred important for the client and coaching? It is a major factor in the process of a fitness session. If the individual has never had sight there may be limited "awareness" or knowledge of body position in relation to an exercise or exercise form.
This is especially so if they are new to exercise. There are variables however. A person may have trained before and knows about positioning themselves.
A client may also be currently active elsewhere too, and seeking help for fitness goals or learning something new.
🔶 WHAT ARE THE BEST ACTIVITIES FOR A VISUAL IMPAIRMENT?
The crucial point here, in many ways is similar to clients with health conditions..... is to avoid compartmentalising activity which can risk creating barriers or boundaries.
The main question is what exercise or activities does that individual enjoy? What are they good at? What do they want to try? What is the fitness goal in mind?
Swimming is often cited as great for visual impairments..... but that is a guideline or suggestion, and doesn't take into account a persons ability, fitness goal or exercise preference.
There are lots of activities enjoyed by many who live with a visual impairment..... from some martial arts to yoga, to lifting weights to bodyweight exercise..... to mention a few.