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Fitness Is Key for Persons With Vision Impairments
By Barbara Peterson, M.S.

Barbara Peterson, M.S.

Losing vision is one of the most inclusive losses that a person could acquire. The inability to see impacts a person's total sense of being and placement. The impact on lifestyle and health is profound.

Close your eyes. Tightly. Now, try to walk a straight line. Good luck! One of the greatest challenges for people when they lose their vision is the loss of mobility and confidence in using their remaining senses. People who are newly blind are especially at risk of injury from falls and chronic illness.

A fitness regimen is an essential rehabilitation component for persons who have lost or are losing their vision. At Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh (BVRS), individuals who go through personal adjustment to blindness training are offered an adapted physical education program in a specially designed fitness center. The program aims to:

  • Build the balance and confident gait needed to avoid tripping and falling
  • Incorporate fitness into an individual's lifestyle to help prevent chronic illness
  • Teach stress management techniques

At BVRS, the fitness program was pioneered by Eileen Bender, M.Ed., who is a national expert in the field of adapted physical education for the blind and has received numerous awards for her professional work.

The fitness program recently moved to a new and larger space with new exercise equipment thanks to the generosity of Highmark, the William B. McLaughlin Charitable Trust and the Robert & Mary Weisbrod Foundation. The Michael A. Romano Fitness Center was named after the agency's former Board Chairman, Michael A. Romano, who retired from Highmark as the senior vice president of risk and administrative services.

Currently, the Fitness Center is open to staff and clients for balance training and fitness activities, with plans to make the center available to the community.

Barbara Peterson is director of client services at Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh. For more information on Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, call (412) 368-4400 or visit www.blindvr.org.

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