This was originally published on Quora on January 10 as Laura Hale’s Answer to What can be done to increase blind cricket participation in Australia?.
Blind sports in Australia have never been historically strong. That’s because when Paralympic sport and elite disability sport arrived in Australia, it was sport for wheelchair users and mostly based out of Perth initially with later pushes in Sydney and Melbourne. Brisbane and Adelaide were generally on the fringes. Deaf sport was also around and active, but it was its own separate thing from “other” disability sports.
From what I can tell, the early Paralympic movement really defined the early organized disability sports community with a lot of the push coming from able-bodied people in rehabilitation centers. Blind sport did not enter the Paralympic program until 1980s or so. Without having emerged separately as its own cultural thing driven by a strong national vision impairment organization, Australia didn’t develop that early framework to support blind sport as a national thing. It appears to have developed much later, starting to be a bigger thing in the late 1980s.
My current gut feel is that to a degree, when government funding agencies are looking around at potential Paralympic medals, they see blind sport and think these medals are harder to win because there is just so much depth in so many countries. “Cheaper” medals can be gotten in other events. And without that continual push on elite sports, it seems much more difficult to push the casual sports for non-elite athletes that also serve as elite athlete pathways. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget that blind cricket is not a Paralympic sport.
What that means is that Australia has a number of structural barriers that historically make doing this a bit difficult. If I was looking to increase participation in blind cricket, I’d be looking at cricket clubs first. Australia has a lot of them. I’d do something similar to what I believe British Blind Sports is doing: I’d be sending kits on how easy it is to do inclusive sports to various sporting organizations. I’d also be reaching out to kids, and telling them their options.
I’d then be encouraging parents to get involved with playing sports with their kids. VI kids in Australia? What’s not Australian but cricket? Take the kids out and play. And then work through the local schools to developed structured blind cricket. It needs to start young if you want to increase participation.
Lastly, I think I’d also lobby School Sport Australia
to support disability sport generally, and blind sport more specifically. If not blind cricket, then goalball as a gateway sport that can get people into blind cricket.