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Community and Domestic Life: Recreation

Young blind boy water skiing in wetsuit, 1964

A large part of the American lifestyle is focused on ‘free time’. Many of us look forward to family reunions and vacations or anxiously awaiting the workday to be over and our weekend to begin. Blind persons enjoy hobbies and recreation with the same variance as the rest of the population. Some would rather read a book than ski, while others enjoy riding bikes or knitting. Whatever their interest, blind people find ways to participate.

During the 1960s, publicity from the Adult Orientation Center in Des Moines highlighted many activities that were previously thought by the public to be outside of blind’s persons ability. As mentioned on the Public Perception  page, the “caretaker” attitude towards the blind often caused not only sighted individuals, but blind people themselves to think they were incapable of taking care of themselves, let alone doing recreational activities such as fishing or camping. However, as the philosophy on blindness progressed, so did the freedom of mobility and activity of the blind.


Over the years, several articles have been published that describe both the activities and hobbies of the blind, and the philosophy of the Adult Orientation Center. Here are some of those articles:
Blindness Doesn't Stop Them (1961)
History in Their Fingers (1962)
Sports, Recreation Helps Blind 'See' Brighter Future (1975)

More articles are available in the Iowa Blind History archives, such as "They See Target With Ears" and "Bowlers are Blind to Competition". 

Iowans Talk About Their Experience With Recreation:

Susie Stageberg
Pat Hamling
Karla Ice

To hear the full narrations, read transcripts, or find additional oral histories in which blind Iowans talk about their recreational activities and interests, visit the Oral History page.

Image #1: Photo of a blind boy water skiing. Photo from the 1964 Iowa Commission for the Blind Annual Report. Caption in the report reads: "'If I can water ski, then perhaps I can also do other things which I thought impossible. Perhaps I need to re-examine my entire attitude and outlook concerning blindness and its limitations.' Not an uncommon reaction as a blind person finds himself water skiing for the first time. Such outings are an important part of the training program at the Orientation Center."


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