Modifications for Visually Impaired Students in Physical Education Classes

Students who are visually impaired may spend their Physical Education class sitting out or keeping score if no modifications are made for them to participate. Visually impaired students who are overweight or have limited muscle tone or lung capacity due to inactivity could highly benefit from participating in gym class. It is important for teachers to include and make adaptations for all students with visual disorders so they can be healthy and fit, take part in their classroom community and develop self-confidence.

  1. Initial Considerations

    • As a teacher, you should initially find out the extent of the student’s functional vision by speaking to appropriate staff members or parents. Ask the student about objects she can see, sight distance and what lighting conditions help her see the best.

      At the beginning of the school year, allocate some one-on-one practice times with the student in order to teach specific sports skills and help him build confidence for gym class.

      Consider pairing the student with a "buddy" for the year who can provide verbal cues during games, act as a physical guide during certain activities and help the student learn new skills.

      As the year progresses, the goal should be for the visually impaired student to become more independent and to feel like an equal among her classmates.


    • For students who are partially blind, use brightly-colored (white, yellow and orange) balls, cones and boundary markers. Use balls with bells, beepers or rattles. Wristbands with bells are ideal for visually impaired students to help identify where other players are located. Employ balloons or foam balls to avoid potential injuries; using larger sized balls may also be a good idea to help students whose vision is only partially impaired. Gym mats are an excellent tool for boundaries or bases. Set up ropes along running courses. Provide rules composed in Braille or provide a tactile map of the playing field.

    Playing Area

    • It is important that whenever there is a new playing area, you allow visually impaired students time to explore and become familiar with the area and the equipment. Make sure the area is free of obstacles and tripping agents. When explaining a new game or sport to the class, use descriptive verbal instructions that include directions around the playing field or specific actions the student should take. Check in with the student and ask him whether the lighting is ideal and if the boundaries are clearly marked.

    Sports Modifications

    • Basketball–Add a sound component to the backboard and encourage students to use bounce passes so the visually impaired student can anticipate the approaching ball.

      Volleyball–Teach the visually impaired student how to serve and allow her to be the main server for her team; instruct her buddy to let her know when she needs to bump the ball.

      Soccer--Add a sound source to the goal or instruct the goalie to provide verbal cues to the student.

      Baseball–Provide a tee to the student to use for batting and set up ropes for him to follow as he runs from base to base.

      Track and Field–The visually impaired student’s buddy can assist by providing support during jumping and running activities.


    • Hanz Lorenzen and Sepp Reindle invented Goalball in 1946 as a means to provide recreational opportunities for veterans blinded during World War II. It is now an international sport and constitutes one of the events at the Paralympics. To play the game, all players wear a blindfold and attempt to roll a ball filled with bells across the goal line of the opposing team. Because Goalball allows all students to participate and keeps visually impaired students from feeling at a disadvantage, it would be an excellent addition to a Physical Education class.

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  • Photo Credit soccer dribbling image by Sirena Designs from

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