Hazel, a vision-impaired lady, and her blind partner, Paul, regularly participate in archery. One day they hope to compete in the Paralympics. Paul says,
Being totally blind, I thought that archery was a sport I could never do. It's very rewarding when you hit the target.
In March 2011, Vision Australia, Blind Sports Victoria and Eastern Recreation Leisure Services ran a pilot archery program. Over six sessions, unsighted participants learnt various safety techniques, including how to hold the bow correctly. Those who enjoyed this program later pursued archery through their local clubs.
For the correct stance, you place your heels against what's called 'foot locaters', explains Hazel.
A tripod supports a tactile device, which you touch with the back of the hand that's holding your bow. When you release the arrow using the correct technique, you'll hopefully hit the target. A sighted spotter will use a clock-face position to tell you where you hit the target, and the colour or score number.
It's not hard to learn, says Paul.
The experience is more hands-on for us. We use our memory to line ourselves up with the target.
Hazel and Paul take it in turns to aim for the same target.
At the moment, we're shooting 20 meters from the target, says Paul.
Soon we'll be going out to 30 meters.
Each blind or vision-impaired participant has their own sighted coach.
We're showing them how to interact with vision-impaired people, says Paul.
And they're showing us how to load our arrow and position ourselves with the target.
Hazel and Paul have their own equipment. They use the same kind of bow and arrow as sighted participants. The type of equipment depends on how tall the archer is and how far back they can draw the bow.
Like all sports, archery has protocols and archers must abide by the rules. One whistle signals when archers may collect their arrows from the field. The second whistle means that archers can commence their shooting.
After completing the beginners' course, archers can apply to become a member. This allows them to compete against other archers.
The Waverley City Archers, where Paul and I are now members, run a club competition every Saturday afternoon. We can shoot there, or in other competitions.
Hazel describes her experience of archery as
frustrating at times, generally when my arrows miss the target. But when my arrow hits the target, it's fantastic! I've struck dead centre once, and that felt really good.
Whether the shot is good or bad, it's up to you. No one is helping you to aim. Shooting independently is the best feeling.
Blind or vision impaired people interested in participating in archery are welcome to contact Hazel on 0412 224 242. Alternatively, you can contact your nearest local archery club and make enquiries there.