The photo of a tennis game above may look a bit strange to you: the court
is a bit small, the net is a badminton net lowered to the ground, and
the oversized ball bounces two to three times and jingles because it has
ball bearings inside. But strangest of all are the players: they’re blind.
Welcome to blind tennis, a sport that was invented in Japan back in 1984
and is now growing in popularity in the USA:
When he first heard about tennis for the visually impaired, his
reaction was “No way!” he said. “I was skeptical.”
So were faculty members at the Perkins School for the Blind here,
when a sighted student from nearby Newton proposed it nearly two years
ago. But Perkins, known for athletic innovations like adapted fencing,
decided to offer what are believed to be the first blind tennis classes
in the country.
Like tennis for sighted people, the game requires speedy court
coverage and precise shot-making. Blind players rely on their ears to
follow a foam ball filled with ball bearings that rattles when it bounces
or is struck.
“Your ears have become your eyes,” said Dr. Robert
Gotlin, director of orthopedic and sports rehabilitation at Beth Israel
Medical Center in New York City.
Thomas Lin of The New York Times has the interesting story: Link