Feature Writer John Christie – Visually Impaired Teenagers Make Great Strides to be Treated as Equals in High School Sports

Aria Ottmueller, a high school junior in Arizona just recently took up the sport of Pole Vaulting. She had been trying for a year to get her coach’s permission to participate in the sport. One of the reasons why the coach might not have let her play is because with Pole Vault you have a cross bar and a foam pit.

In East Texas, Charlotte Brown tries to distinguish the runway between artificial turf and grass. She had a hard time doing that so the coach puts a strip of carpet along the runway so that she can be guided toward the bar.

One recent weekend, both of these teenagers competed in their state track and field meets in their respective states. Ottmueller 17, and Brown 15, are redefining disability. In the past, these blind athletes were not accommodated in mainstream high school sports. Now, they are both competing and succeeding in mainstream high school sports.

Brown has cleared 11 feet 6 inches in the sport. She is competitive with the able bodied pole vault teenagers in her age group. She hopes to vault 12 feet or higher in the Texas school meet.

Ottmueller began vaulting five weeks ago after trying for a year to persuade her coach to let her try the sport. Thus far, she has jumped 7 feet. Blind athletes have participated in running and throwing events. However, with Pole Vaulting, many high Schools don’t practice the sport because of liability. In addition, many feel that it is a dangerous sport to compete in for both disabled and non-disabled alike.

Ottmueller was born with underdeveloped optic nerves and can see at 20 feet what a person with normal vision can see at 400 feet.

Brown developed cataracts and can’t tell the difference between light and dark. Both teenagers use Braille as their main medium.

It’s great that these visually impaired athletes are competing in pole vault. Hopefully, both of them will do well in their competitions and will do well in the sport.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/11/sports/blind-athletes-treat-pole-vault-like-any-other-hurdle.html?emc=eta1&_r=3&

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