Usually when we talk about including children who are visually impaired into mainstream physical education classes many folks become concerned that the specific adaptations needed to address the needs of the disabled student will water down both the instructional and enjoyment value of an activity. For a few activities this fear is valid however, more often than not inclusive practices benefit everyone involved. Darts is one such activity where sighted and visually impaired youngsters can play and compete together without concern.
Darts can teach all participants skills in targeting/aiming, coordination, isolated muscle movement, and posture. In addition darters can exercise their minds through concentration and even math skills such as addition, subtraction, and multiplication when determining their score. Players who are visually impaired gain additional skills in spatial orientation, listening, and locating fallen objects. Using darts in a physical education setting can also help with socialization and team spirit.
Sighted and visually impaired youngsters can actually compete against one another in darts. The activity will allow new friendships to form and give visually impaired children more self-confidence. Including darts into the physical education curriculum is a win-win situation.
Adapting & Playing
Although the game of darts has been around for centuries, it has only been within the last two decades that visually impaired individuals have been enjoying it. Currently, audio darts groups for the visually impaired exist in Minnesota, Delaware, and Pittsburgh. There are also many visually impaired individuals who throw darts on their own in many areas where groups are not organized. It has become popular among the visually impaired community because it can be easily adapted.
Since the throwing area is only eight feet from the target and the board is only five feet off the ground, the spatial distances are easy for a visually impaired person to navigate and comprehend. Visually impaired darters usually use a toe board to line up straight and centered. Any stick, carpet edge, or textured surface works as a sufficient toe board. Sometimes styrofoam or a bulletin board is used as a backboard to catch errant darts. Actually, the most challenging part of playing darts as a visually impaired person is locating the fallen ones. It takes a good ear to effectively track the landing site.
One adaptation that is nice but not necessary is a talking dartboard. Most darts groups use machines that speak the hits, rounds, scores, and game options. However, these boards are rare and are no longer being produced. Realistically though, visually impaired darters can use any dartboard available for retail purchase.
Most boards used today whether for public or private use are made of bristle, a plastic-like texture which is made from fruits and vegetables. The target is similar to an archery target with a Bull’s-eye surrounded by four concentric rings. The ring closest to the Bull’s-eye and the third out from the Bull’s-eye count for single points. The second ring out from the Bull’s-eye counts for triple points. The outermost ring counts for double points. But, unlike the archery target, the darts board is broken into spokes or segments. There are 20 spokes, each representing the numbers 1-20.
An example of a throw might be: a dart that hits within the 15 spoke, and in the second ring out from the Bull’s-eye would equal 45 points. You arrive at 45 by taking the 15-point spoke and multiplying it by the triple ring. In darts lingo this is called a Triple 15.
Many visually impaired darters memorize the spoke values and locations in order to aid orientation and accuracy. Corrections can be made by responding to the sighted spotters description of where the dart hit. Often the spotter will give both the clock position and the distance from the board. For example, “10 o’clock about 2 inches out” tells the visually impaired darter to move his aim down and right. Other throwers prefer to be given assistance based on the spoke number they missed. For example, “You’re outside the 6 by an inch.” Experienced darters can then correct their aim.
Visually impaired darters use the same stance, throwing motion, and follow-through as sighted darters. It is important to stand with the feet slightly apart to achieve good balance. The dart is usually held near the ear. It should be gripped like a pen and pointed at the board. A good throw only uses the lower arm. When releasing the dart, the follow-through should position the fingers extended and pointed to the board. Many throwers learn to freeze their arm after the follow-through to retain the entire delivery process.
Some of the popular games among visually impaired darters are Count Up, 301 Count Down, and 501 Count Down. The objective of Count Up is to score the most points in 8 rounds. It is played by single players. An experienced player usually scores between 325 and 375 in Count Up. Both 301 and 501 are count down games which require a player or team to get their score down to 0 or as close as possible in the allotted rounds. The count down games can be played with one, two, or three players. All of these games allow each player three darts per turn.
Darts is unique because of the variety of games and player options. It can be played in the privacy of a home, in physical education class, or at the neighborhood pub. Anyone can excel at darts regardless of his or her height, dominant hand, sex, or disability. The game does not discriminate.
Fully accessible talking dart boards are now available from AudioDartMaster.com. These exciting new boards make it even easier for blind and visually impaired players to enjoy the sport of Darts.