VA Programs Offer Recreation, Rehab 

 by BRS Strategic Planning Committee on Recreation

Are you an avid sports fan? Do you miss being more active and enjoy a bit of competition? Would you like to learn about various sporting activities? Then read on…

The VA National Blind Rehabilitation Service, in conjunction with the National VA Central Office, is working to make current and future sporting events and opportunities more accessible and user friendly for the blinded veteran. Our committee has been tasked with sorting out and disseminating all of the current recreational opportunities available for veterans of all ages and ability levels.

One of the best known recreational opportunities is the National Golden Age Games. This is a multi-event sports and recreational seniors’ competition for veterans 55 and older of all ability levels. Events include swimming, bicycling, golf, shot put, discus, 10-meter air rifle, ping pong, dominoes, shuffleboard, horseshoes, nine-ball bowling, checkers, and croquet. Each event has seven age categories for participation: 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-84 and 85 and up. Additionally, veterans with visual impairments and those who use wheelchairs may compete in the Visually Impaired and Wheelchair Divisions. The committee has made suggestions for improved accessibility for the visually impaired and is very encouraged by the response.

Another event is the National Winter Sports Clinic held in Snowmass, Colorado, each year. This event introduces disabled veterans to various winter sports. These events include adaptive skiing with mono-skis and bi-skis, and instruction in adaptive downhill and cross-country skiing for the visually impaired. Alternate activities include scuba diving, sled hockey, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, rock climbing, trap shooting, fencing, and golf. There are also educational and instructional workshops on self-defense and other topics. The Winter Sports Clinic is a very popular event and the lives of many visually impaired veterans have been enriched through their attendance.

Last but not least, the TEE Tournament is held annually in Iowa. This event gives legally blind veterans an opportunity to golf, perhaps for the first time since losing their vision, and the chance to compete against other golfers who are also legally blind. A host of activities supplements the golf, i.e. bowling, horseshoes, and a casino night. Any legally blind veteran attending may choose to bring a sighted partner for spotting or, if one is not available, the TEE Tournament can provide the partner.

The committee hopes to develop a nationally sponsored Summer Games that will be accessible and include people with various disabilities. We encourage blinded veterans to take advantage of the current opportunities. For more information on how to become involved, or to find out if there are other events in a specific region, contact the local VIST Coordinator.