You would think the hardest part of being a blind
triathlete would be, you know, being blind.
In fact it isn’t.
The most difficult thing I deal with is the attitude of
sighted people. The number of people who try to tell me I can't do a triathlon
because I am blind… like I didn't know I was blind when I got into this.
I have competed in many races over the last few years. I
am pleased to say that the majority of the race organizers have been fabulous and
truly welcoming. It is such a wonderful experience to register and get that
first message back saying, “That’s wonderful! Just let me know what we can do
to help and we will make it happen.”
Unfortunately, I have also experienced the other side of
the coin. I have been told that I am a safety and fairness risk, insurance
companies won’t insure the race because a blind person is participating, I
might hurt myself, or I might hurt someone else, because I can’t see them. They
can see me, so wouldn’t you think they would move over?
One of the biggest barriers for those of us who are blind
but want to participate is the inaccessibility of websites. If you can’t access
the website, you can’t register. Creating an accessible website is easy to do, but
so many times I have to ask for help.
This hurdle makes the first part of the experience negative even before
the race begins.
When I register for a race I always drop the race director
an e-mail to let them know that I am registered and that I am blind. I explain not
to worry because I bring my own guide and equipment.
I was told by one race director, “I have been an athlete
most of my life and my gut tells me that this isn’t safe.”
“I have been blind most of my life and my gut tells me you
gut is wrong,” I retorted.
You would think that some of these folks had never heard
of a blind person leaving their house before!
The thing that limits people with disabilities to
participate in so many activities is not their own limitations, but the
limitations and attitudes of other people who aren’t even in the situation.
If you are a race director or on the organizing
committee, please remember that we are here and walk, run, swim or cycle with you.
Please don’t lock us out!
If you want help to make sure you are making your race
inviting for all, consider contacting an organization like The Tandem Project
(TTP). TTP can provide advice on making sure you are welcoming athletes of all
abilities – right from the beginning. Give us a chance to show you what we can
I made it this far in life and I'm pretty sure I can get
over that finish line!
Diane is a proud member of The Tandem Project and Won with One Triathlon team. For more information, go to www.thetandemproject.org.