Good answers. Working with the physically challenged can be a daunting but most rewarding accomplishment. I would concur with Joanne that your first step is to contact the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (through ACSM.) Your client’s hearing acuity and ability to follow movement cues are critical to your providing your client with a safe and effective workout experience.
I taight a gentle yoga class with a blind participant. She had her dog with her. I found that she could follow my verbal cues very well – and as Jacquelyn said, you really need to use your very best verbal cuing skills.
I also found that this participant (and I believe most sight-impaired people) was very familiar with the room orientation. So cues such as “Reaching your right arm toward the window” and “Stepping your front foot a few inches toward the door” were the easiest for her to follow.
I have a friend at church who is blind and asked me tonight about my upcoming fitness classes. He usually has his dog, Burgess, with him, but he simply asked if I could meet with him before class to go over the choreography in more detail for him.
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to do when it comes to blindness, but I find that asking the person what they want or need is usually the best way to go.
There is a wonderful organization called the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability who collaborate with the American College of Sports Medicine.
Through the ACSM, one can earn the credential ACSM CIFT – Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer. It’s a speciality certification. Too, you will find useful information on the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability. Their website is www.ncpad.org.
As far as working with someone who is blind or visually impaired the NCPAD suggests the following guidelines.
1. When communicating with clients who are blind or visually impaired, speak to the client when you approach him or her.
2. State clearly who you are; speak in a normal tone of voice.
3. Never touch or distract a service dog without first asking the client.
4. Do not attempt to lead the client without first asking; allow the client to hold your arm and control his or her own movements.
5. Be descriptive when giving directions.
6. When seating, gently place the client’s hand on the back or arm of the chair so that the person can locate the seat.
7. When conversing in a group, remember to identify yourself and the client to whom you are speaking.
8. Tell the client when you are leaving.
Many years ago (prior to the debut of step) I was about to begin a low-impact class when two women approached me. One of them said, “I’d like to let you know that I’m blind. I do have a little peripheral vison & I follow my friend”.
Internally I was freaking out, but said to her, “Oh thank you for letting me know! I’ll make sure to give my verbal cues in your direction.”
Having her in my classes did more for my ability to verbally cue than anything else ever did. I could watch her and see if my cues were effective or not. She was awesome at following, I must add. And she had a friend beside her, who’s feet she could sort of see – and to assist if necessary.
What I would suggest is that you hone in on your verbal cueing skills, and that this client would benefit from having a personal assistant or friend in class with him. You are instructing a group, and while you can give some individual attention, can’t neglect the group for one person. It also depends upon how large the group is – so if it’s a small class he might do well without someone with him.