Blind archery, the most recent sport to have official status within International Blind Sports Association (I.B.S.A.), will be presented to the International Paralympic Committee (I.P.C.) Archery Sports Assembly. It is accepted that to begin with, there will only be two categories, male and female, wearing blackouts/shades. This is great news, as blind archers would at last have the same aspirations as any other archer to compete at the highest level.
I.P.C. has categories for men and women, recurve and compound. However blackouts are worn by all the participants.
Visually impaired archers shoot with two types of bows, recurve and compound. The recurve operates by the archer drawing back the string increasing the load and then releasing by relaxing the fingers on the string. A compound bow works on a block and tackle system. The holding weight is less than that of a recurve and the shot is activated by a release aid attached to the string. Compound bows are used by archers who may have had an injury or unable to draw a recurve satisfactorily.
For safety reasons a spotter is with the archer at all times. During competitions a spotter is allowed only to call the value of the arrow strike. A clock face system; 3 o’clock blue 7 o’clock red etc; is used for the said purpose. Any alterations to the tactile equipment during shooting are made by the archer.
Archery for visually impaired people has been around since the early 1970's.
During the earlier years of visually impaired Archery there were a few obstacles to overcome as it was not as simple as just picking up a bow and start shooting. How was anyone going to aim at the target?
One of the first tactile sighting devices consisted of a drip stand that someone acquired from a local hospital and fitted a cross piece on the top with bristles at the end. The hand holding the bow rested against these bristles and that was a good enough guide. This method called ’the back of the hand’ method was the most widely used aiming method, but the stands have improved, with most people using tripods with extending center poles and top sections with fine adjustment, both up and down, and left and right. In the beginning these stands were not personalised and many archers shared a stand with another archer and had to shoot one after the other.
Around 1977 and for many years following there was only one visually impaired archer in Wales, but during the 1980’s a few clubs around the country started archery for their visually impaired members.
In 1985 a group of visually impaired archers got together and met with the Chairman of Grand National Archery Society Ltd. (G.N.A.S.) in Birmingham and formulated some rules for visually impaired archery. This meant that visually impaired archery could be included in non disabled archery events and shoot alongside them, without causing the organisers any extra problems. From this meeting the British Blind Sport - Archery sub-committee was formed.
There was another tactile method of shooting which was called the Long Rod method. This entailed: the same type of stand, but instead of using the back of the bow hand to sight one used the stabiliser that extended from the front of the bow. This fitted up into a ‘U’ shape extending from the stand, which gave the aiming point. A few visually impaired archers use this method and find it more comfortable and less constraining.
In the early 90’s the French developed the Iris sighting device. This was an electronic device with a sender on the bottom of the target with a receiver on the bow. The receiver was connected to a battery pack and the archer had headphones to hear the signal that was being received. The higher the pitch the nearer the centre of the target the person was aiming at. There were a lot of wires involved for the archer, but no stands to be stuck to. Coaches said this was the best method of shooting as a visually impaired archer can be coached in a similar way any non disabled archer with a sighting device on his bow and not fixed to the ground. The problem with Iris has been its high cost and that it has been effective over short distances, which take a lot of time too, to achieve accurate aiming point. Thus Iris has been abandoned as a serious sighting method. However, they are still in use in France to this day. A laser device was also developed, but this has not been used extensively because of its high cost.
The first national championships specific for visually impaired archers was organised in Neath, South Wales in 1990 and they were held in South Wales for the next few years. From 1999 a decision was made that the Championships would be moved to the National Sports Center at Lilleshall, Newport, Shropshire which can provide full archery facilities and accommodation for those wishing to stay.
In 2000 it was decided to hold Indoor Championships. St Dunstans hosted the first two competitions. In 2002 the Championships were held in Stafford and then in 2003 it was agreed to move these Championships to Lilleshall Sports Centre.
Since 1977 visually impaired archers have competed at the B.S.A.D. (British Sports Association for the Disabled), now known as Disability Sport England Championships, for all disabilities, shooting at 50 and 30 metres, but it has been only in the last couple of years that visually impaired archers have been able to compete on the same basis as their wheelchair counterparts.
In 2004 a team of eight visually impaired archers and their spotters from the U.K. took part in the second visually impaired archery international competition held on the outskirts of Paris.
The current F.I.T.A. (Federation International de Tira’ L’Arc) rules are followed. The following instructions will be applied by all national I.B.S.A. -member associations for all official competitions.
Only nationals of the country of the national I.B.S.A. - member association submitting the entry are eligible to represent that association in championships.
In countries where the national I.B.S.A. - member association is not governed by blind people, any individual wishing to participate in a sanctioned competition must be formally nominated for certification by the recognised national organisation of blind people that has been actively promoting competitive blind sports, unless special circumstances satisfactory to the I.B.S.A archery technical sub-committee prevent that from happening.
Eligible for competition shall be the I.B.S.A. classes B1, B2, B3 and V.I. Open. Archers, when entering for a championship will be required to submit a copy of their eyesight classifications. Failing to do so will result in disqualification from the championship.
All archers may be required to be reclassified by International I.B.S.A. classifiers at the championships even though they may have been classified previously. The only exception shall be those archers who have been given I.B.S.A. permanent medical status.
Download rules for visually impaired archers at archery events
Calendar of main competitive events
1st April 2006- BBS National Indoor Championships, Lilleshall NSC - Double Portsmouth
11th June 2006- Open Burntwood Round, Nottingham Area 9th September 2006 - BBS National Outdoor Championships, Lilleshall NSC
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