Blackout Glasses, a Risk for Blind Athletes?

by Jessica Lam

A legally blind athlete sued three triathlon groups for allegedly violating Americans with Disabilities Act in Detroit on Wednesday.

 

Defendants require all blind and visually impaired athletes to wear blackout glasses during the running portion of the triathlon and by doing so; the suit argues that this rule discriminates against people with impaired vision. These glasses black out some reminder of the vision that some competitors have.

“When I tried running with the blackout glasses with a guide, I hit my head on a pole, fell into a ditch and ran off the road several times all in a two minute time span,” Scheidies said. The experience made him feel “defeated and less of a human being.”

 

Scheidies, a seven-time triathlon World Champion and eight-time triathlon National champion, says he plans to compete in future triathlons when blackout glasses are no longer required to wear during the races. He still has about 20%, of the vision of someone with full sight as a result of Stargardt’s disease, according to Scheidies’s website.

 

Rules changed since he first participated in triathlons. The black out glasses requirement was set to level the playing field amongst partially-sighted and blind athletes for qualifying and further races on the international scale in 2010, explained by ITU, one of the defendants.

 

Defendants, USA Triathlon, and ITU, play a role in either making or enforcing the rules of triathlons held in the United States. ITU, located in North Vancouver, Canada, is the international organization, while USA Triathlon is the United States national organization. They both make laws so that all legally blind would play without any sight in the sport. 3-D Racing LLC, also a defendant, is an organization that sponsors races, abiding these rules for the city of Detroit, where Scheidies is originally from.

 

One of the defendants, International Triathlon Union, defended their rule. “The rule exists to create a fairer competition for all athletes because partially blind athletes and completely blind athletes compete in the same category and partially blind athletes have an advantage over those who are completely blind,” ITU said.

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