Military Sport Program
The USABA Military Sport Program will enhance the lives of all (100%) disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces who are blind and visually impaired by accelerating their rehabilitation and re-integration back into their home communities.
To provide sport, recreation, and physical activity opportunities for all disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces who are blind and visually impaired.
Shortly after the end of the United States' involvement in Vietnam, the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA), a nonprofit organization based in Colorado Springs, was formed to provide life-enriching sports opportunities for all individuals who are blind and visually impaired. In 1976, 27 young men and women were selected to represent the United States in the first Olympiad for the Disabled in Toronto, Canada. As a result of this Olympic involvement, a group of national leaders, educators and coaches of the visually impaired met to discuss the need for an organization to structure, promote and sponsor competitions for individuals who are blind and visually impaired throughout the United States.
More than 34 years later, the same drive and determination fostered by the original 27 athletes lives on today in USABA's 3,000 members nationwide. The mission of USABA is to increase the number and quality of world-class athletic opportunities available to all Americans who are blind or visually impaired, from the grassroots to a competitive, elite level. USABA wants to break free from common misconceptions regarding people who are visually impaired and change society's negative stereotypes concerning the abilities of the blind by providing educational workshops for blind and visually impaired youth and adults, in health, fitness, life-skills and sports programs.
USABA has evolved into a national organization that provides the blind and visually impaired competitor the chance to participate in a variety of sports. As a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), USABA provides athletic opportunities in an assortment of summer and winter sports including: goalball (a team sport specific to the blind and visually impaired), athletics (track and field), tandem cycling, judo, rowing, sailing, swimming, Alpine (downhill) skiing, Nordic (cross country) skiing, and biathlon (a combination of cross country skiing and shooting).
Working in conjunction with the USOC Paralympic Military Division, USABA has taken on an additional challenge—to help those who have served in the U.S. Military by creating and improving opportunities for active duty service personnel and Veterans who are blind and visually impaired. Through the new position of Military Sports Program Coordinator, USABA is working to enhance the lives of active duty service members and Veterans who are blind and visually impaired and to accelerate their rehabilitation process through sport, recreation and physical activity and to assist in the reintegration of those individuals back into their local communities.
The Military Sports Program is focused on the existing ten Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Blind Rehabilitation Centers and is designed to enhance the on-going rehabilitation programs at each of these facilities. These blind rehabilitation centers are located in Palo Alto, CA; Hines, IL; Birmingham, AL; Tucson, AZ; West Haven, CT; Augusta, GA; Waco, TX; Tacoma, WA; West Palm Beach, FL; and San Juan PR. Program expansion to three new Blind Rehabilitation Centers is under consideration. USABA works with the Blind Rehabilitation Center staff and local community based organizations to enhance, and in some cases develop and implement ongoing recreation and sport program opportunities for Veterans and active duty Service members of all ages in an effort to improve the overall rehabilitation program. One such program, Operation Mission Vision, specifically designed for Veterans and active duty Service members who are blind and visually impaired was launched to help promote sport and physical activity. When a Service member or Veteran leaves a Blind Rehabilitation Center, USABA wants to ensure that he or she is armed with enough information to take these learned skills and successfully integrate into their hometowns in order to continue to lead more healthy lifestyles and to identify appropriate participants for local and regional competition.
Military Sport Program Strategic Objective
- Assist the Department of Defense (DoD) / Veterans Affairs (VA) Vision Center of Excellence in the rehabilitation efforts of service members or Veterans who are blind or visually impaired.
- Develop and implement on-going programs within the communities of ten (soon to be thirteen) VA Blind Rehabilitation Centers in collaboration with community based programs and services for the blind and visually impaired.
- Identify, disseminate and promote local, regional and national camps, clinics and competitions and assist in the participation of disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces who are blind and visually impaired.
- Increase the developing / emerging athlete pools from 25-50 service members or veterans of the Armed Forces who are blind or visually impaired since 11 September 2001.
- Implement a "developing athlete" program for those disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces who demonstrate potential in US Paralympic sports for the blind and visually impaired athlete; with a specific focus on track and field, cycling and rowing.
- Develop a consolidated contact list of disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces who are blind and visually impaired.
- Assist the US Olympic Committee Military Sports programming at three Warrior Transition Units.
- Raise funds for this program in support of injured service members / Veterans who are blind and visually impaired.