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American Foundation for the Blind® | Reader's Digest Partners for Sight

Bowling for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

bowling with guide rails

Man bowling with guide rails

Bowling by persons who are blind is not only possible but is also highly competitive. Just ask anyone in the American Blind Bowling Association or at the International Blind Sports Association about tournaments, training, and rules!

Blind and visually impaired athletes can compete in bowling through one of two adaptive methods: sighted guidance or a guide rail.

Sighted Guidance

When using the sighted guidance method, a sighted assistant aligns the blind bowler on the approach before the delivery. The bowler is aligned on the spot from which he or she wishes to execute the delivery. The reference point can be a particular board on the approach, for example.

Using a Guide Rail

Guide rails can help with both your approach and delivery. These lightweight tubular metal rails are easy to assemble and can help guide you straight toward the pins. They can be assembled, disassembled, and stored easily. Some alleys or bowling centers have guide rails already in place or available for loan.

Stan Smith, 66, of the Blind Bowlers Association in Delaware, says this about guide rails: "The rail runs from the foul line back to the beginning of the approach. Some people keep their hand on the rail the whole time, others just use it to line themselves up. Bowling, if it's done right, is repetitive. It's just a matter of taking the same number of steps and getting your feet in the right place. Everything has to be coordinated. The railing is your guide to keep you straight on the approach."

  • They are held in place on the bowling approach by the weight of the bowling balls and can be used in any bowling center without damaging the lanes or interfering with the operation of automatic bowling equipment.
  • The rails are placed alongside the bowling approach and extend back from the foul line toward the seating area, on either the left or the right side of the alley, depending upon whether the bowler is left- or right-handed.
  • The bowler slides one hand along the guide rail while releasing the ball with the other hand, noting his or her starting position in relation to the guide rail.
  • The bowler can determine whether the ball is being released in the center of the lane or near one edge, since the guide rail is positioned to run straight along the first board outside the width of the lane.
  • An assistant can identify the pins either knocked down or left standing by calling out the numbered locations of the pins. The information tells the bowler where to roll the next ball or how to modify the delivery.
  • If you have low vision, a bright-colored ball can provide helpful contrast against the bowling lane.
  • The guide rail is the only adaptation. There are no bumpers in the gutters or any other concessions.

Helpful Websites About Adapted Bowling

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