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The Importance Of Leisure Activities

January 30, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Karen reminds us that there are times when we need to stop being so serious, taking a break to enjoy accessible recreational activities.

Recreation is an important aspect of life. We all need to find time to

relax and unwind after a long day’s work. We live in such a fast paced society. Most of us seem to not have enough time to do all the things we need or want to do during the day. Not only are we expected to work outside the home, to be productive and active members of our communities, we are also expected to manage our homes competently. We must be organized, manage our time well, and act as responsible adults by successfully completing such tasks as paying our bills and running errands. These are the expectations of a mature, responsible adult. If one is feeling overwhelmed with too much stress and pressure, he will not be able to cope very well in the world. These factors make it extremely important for all of us to find time for leisure.

As blind people we encounter more obstacles due to our limitations, fewer opportunities and lack of social support. Needless to say, it is crucial that we get involved in recreation by finding activities that we as blind people can do independently or participate in a group equally with our sighted peers. For example, most people enjoy watching movies, where we often miss out on critical elements such as action, scenery, and facial expressions. This can be frustrating and even depressing, taking the enjoyment from something that should be fun and relaxing.

We are fortunate to have a service called Descriptive Video Service (DVS) that will enable blind and visually impaired people to enjoy such an activity without missing these key elements or needing a sighted person to describe the visual aspects. DVS is affiliated with WGBH, a PBS station in Boston. This service has been available for over a decade. Their selection of movies is extremely limited in comparison to video stores like blockbuster. Despite this fact, they do carry over two hundred movies available in a wide variety of genres. The Staff at DVS work diligently to produce high quality videos for the blind. They view each and every film, dozens of times, taking notes and incorporating a verbal description by choosing language carefully, using as few words as possible so as not to interfere with the dialogue. If you have not experienced something like this, check out the Descriptive Video Service web site for details. Not only can you buy these described videos at the DVS web site, but you may also be able to borrow them from your local library. Most public libraries have a talking book department. Contact

your local Library to get more information and a listing of the descriptive movies that might be available. Darrell and I have purchased DVS videos for a few years now and have an excellent collection. I enjoy mostly the comedies, mysteries and dramas, whereas Darrell finds pleasure watching the action and Science fiction. This is one activity that we can enjoy without sighted assistance.

Of course, there’s much more to recreational activities for the blind than just watching DVS videos. Examples of other great activities might include playing board games, participating in sports, journaling, ceramics, dance, karate and rock climbing.

These are just a few things we have done to cope with every day stress.

There are some board games that are accessible, available in both Braille and large print. One can find these games and other similar accessible products such as playing cards at such companies as Beyond Sight and Independent Living Aids.

In addition to the above mentioned activities, one can also become involved in classes at their local recreation center. This is exactly what Darrell and I did this past year. Like many couples, we have different interests. I am more in to the fine arts while Darrell is interested in more physically active activities such as karate and rock climbing.

I like to journal, expressing my thoughts. I have always been better at communicating and expressing my ideas and perspectives through the written word. Before losing my sight, I would write using pen and paper; however, now that I am totally blind, I utilize the computer. Journaling is another constructive way in which one can cope with stress or depression, especially for the blind or disabled who often feel isolated and alone, not being able to relate to others or feeling uncomfortable talking with a professional counselor. Ceramics is an excellent outlet for self expression and enables one to use their right brain to create and relieve stress.

Darrell took another approach to deal with his stress. Karate was a way for him to get more exercise and clear his head. The same was true for rock climbing, though this activity was much more physically challenging.

If you find yourself feeling anxious, depressed and extremely stressed,

consider participating in recreational activities such as those we have described. It will alleviate your stress, increase your energy and enable you to focus on work and other issues that bombard us in our daily lives.

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3 opinions on “The Importance Of Leisure Activities

  1. I agree with both of you that leisure activities are very important. I haven’t had a job now for several years, and I have participated in a few leisure activities to fill the time. When I lived with my parents, I worked out at a local fitness center usually a couple times a week. I really enjoyed doing this. Not only were the people great, but I really like that kind of strenuous physical exercise. The personal trainers with whom I worked all were very good with me. Two of them had trained with a blind triathlon participant. These two trainers therefore could incorporate their knowledge they gained from working with this other blind person. As for the other trainer I had, she caught on very quickly and was also quite good. Now however, things are a bit different. I am living in my own apartment, and my mobility has been very limited. This is due to my state VR agency’s unwillingness to provide an O&M instructor for me. I have a very good life skills tutor who does get outdoors with me and we take walks, but she and I are working on other things too. She is married with two little children, and she therefore doesn’t always have ample time to work with me outside. I have, however, participated in some fun recreational activities. For one thing, I am a big fan of DVS movies, and like you I have several of them. I have shown some of these movies to neighbors and the neighbors were very impressed. My roommate, who is legally blind but does have some remaining vision, gets out of the building a bit more than I do. I sometimes find this to be rather troublesome. This is partly because I really want to get out and explore my surroundings on my own. I really don’t know what is keeping the VR agency from paying an O&M instructor to come out and work with me. I have thought long and hard about calling my state Client Assistance Program and asking them for help, but my parents aren’t very keen on me doing that. I really don’t know why. All three of us have heard good things about the Client Assistance Program, and as a matter of fact my roommate has heard good things, but my parents have been unwilling to give CAP a try. However, I recently became good friends with a construction worker who has done work on our building. He and I have been hanging out once a week. Today we went for a walk and out to lunch at a nearby restaurant which happens to be one I’ve gone to for a long time and really like. There is also a treadmill in our community room, which is open to all residents. For safety and liability reasons a sighted person must be with me whenever I want to use it. I have absolutely no problem with this, but I think it would be nice if I could travel more independently and actually get out and go to more activities. I have been a Hadley student for a few years, and I really have enjoyed the courses.

  2. Blindness, in an of itself, certainly does not make the independent use of a treadmill or most any other fitness equipment unsafe. A sighted person should not be required for “liability” or any other reason for that matter. I strongly suspect that such a requirement could be considered illegal and that you could successfully push against such a ridiculous restriction. Of course, once you get past that, the adjustments on the thing are probably inaccessible if the device has a digital controller with a visual display!

  3. Hi again Darrell. I’ve been thinking about your comment regarding the treadmill. When i was a client at the fitness center, there was always a fully sighted person with me whenever I used the treadmills, stairmasters, or any of the center’s machines. This was purely for safety reasons, and it had nothing to do with whether or not these people thought I was a capable person. Once I was on one of the treadmills and I was walking, the individual would go do other stuff that needed to do. Each treadmill had hook-ups for radio/TV and CD equipment with headsets, so a lot of times I would listen to music or my favorite talk shows while working out on the treadmill. The center was and probably still is very crowded with all the exercise equipment. Had one of these trainers been careless with me and/or somehow caused me to get injured, my parents and I might have thought about a lawsuit or some other type of legal action. The same is true with my new apartment complex with a few minor exceptions. I don’t think anyone here is very well insured, but I could be wrong about that. Having said that, I think part of the reason for the requirement that a fully sighted individual has to be with me whenever I use the treadmill, is because an incident happened elsewhere where one of these individuals got hurt on a treadmill. I’m not sure if the individual fell or what exactly happened. Given the financial make-up of this independent-living organization, I’m not sure if a lawsuit would be possible but it’s definitely a question worth asking. I find your comment very interesting though. I suppose it wouldn’t be a bad idea for me to have a conversation with these people about the whole safety thing as it relates to the visually-impaired. I can’t understand why anyone, disabled or not, would feel the need to compromise safety standards in favor of another type of thinking. I hope I’ve made myself clear enough here.

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