by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern
June, National Safety Month (NSM) in the United States, is a time when Americans can consider the safety of themselves and their families, friends, co-workers, and community members in their shared environments. NSM was first celebrated in 1996, when the National Safety Council (NSC) sought to spread awareness of safety hazards and accidental injury for industrial workers. Now it encompasses all aspects of health and safety for everyone, in the workplace and everywhere else. NSC advises about many ways to stay safe, including injury prevention, by identifying and assessing risks and hazards in one’s environment, and slips, trips, and falls, which are a leading cause of accidental injury or death. The organization also focuses on analyzing ways to mitigate hazards in one’s environment. Now that it’s the summer season, people will likely be spending more time outdoors, participating in activities like swimming or playing sports. In recognition of NSM, here are some tips for how people who are blind or have low vision can stay safe during these activities.
Recreational swimming is a healthy form of exercise when approached safely. When swimming in pools, it is recommended that people who are blind or have low vision use a private lane, if available, to swim laps. Place brightly colored objects, radios, or other sound-emitting devices to mark the ends of your lane. When in open water, make sure to swim with a buddy. If you get disoriented, swim in the direction of the waves, or listen to the sounds in the environment, such as people talking or dogs barking, to orient you towards the shore. And as always, when swimming, wear goggles to protect your eyes.
During sports or other outdoor activities, it is also a good idea to use protective eyewear, such as sunglasses or goggles, to shield your eyes. To protect your head and body, wear a helmet and/or sports padding. If possible, visit the location where you will be playing ahead of game time, to identify any potential hazards you need to avoid. It is also a good idea to discuss your needs with your fellow players or peers. You can also check with your eye care professional about sports safety, as many activities may require restrictions or adaptive equipment for safety reasons. And as always, when for all outdoor activities, make sure to wear sunscreen to protect your skin, and wear appropriate sunglasses and a hat to protect your eyes. For more information about National Safety Month, check out the National Today article, “National Safety Month 2022,” here, or the National Safety Council’s website, here. For additional suggestions about swimming safety, check out the APH Vision Aware article, “Swimming: Tips for Swimmers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired.” And for more information about sports and outdoor safety, read the APH Vision Aware article, “Outdoor and Sports Safety for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired.”