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Curling-a Rock in Good Time!

Editor's Note: Editors note: As well as being on the NFB:AE's Board of Directors, Corry is the first vice president of the Western Blind Curling Association. He lives in Victoria, B.C.

Curling is one of those sports that you either like or hate. Blind Curling is no different! To nay sayers the thought of walking out onto a piece of ice, in sub-zero conditions, to slide a 44 pound piece of granite some 25 metres down to the other end of the ice, is a bit strange. On top of that the insanity continues when others on YOUR team chase your offering down the ice yelling such sentiments as "wow, stop, heavy and/or it's not curling enough".

To others, and I'll include myself in this category, it's a passion and simply put "a great time"!

Obviously ardent curlers will suggest that I have bastardized the game somewhat with my simplistic overview. However to non curlers who often parallel the game to "shuffleboard on ice", it ranks up there with such activities as 'watching paint dry' on their favorite things to do or watch list. Curling is one of those sports that you simply have to come out and try once to appreciate its enjoyment value.

Blind curling's history is somewhat difficult to trace for there are and have been, several pockets of organized blind curling groups across Canada. At present the sport is enjoyed in several cities in Ontario and throughout western Canada. Out west, the roots of blind curling, or at least its annual championship that produces a Western Canadian Champion each year, can be traced back to a small town in Alberta named Calmar. Almost 30 years ago, a group of blind Curlers from Edmonton challenged members of the Calmar Lions Club to a fun, demonstration game of curling. Observing the talents of the vision- impaired participants, the Lions assumed the role of organizing the first ever Western Blind Bonspiel and have never looked back since. Several years later, the Western Blind Curling Association was formed as the governing body for the sport in Western Canada where the Lions continue to play a key roll.

Blind curling is not much different than the game that others enjoy. Only slight modifications have been made to the Curl Canada (the senior authoritative body for the sport in this country) rules to permit persons who are Blind and vision-impaired to participate.

A blind curling team, we call them rinks (the same word that we call the place where we play, confused yet?) can be made up of 5 individuals instead of the usual 4. Each rink has one totally blind curler, two partially sighted curlers and in some regions one fully sighted participant. (In some parts of Canada a third partially sighted curler is used in place of the fully sighted team member). Each rink is also permitted to use a designated sweeper simply to replace sweeping on the part of the totally blind curler.

In the sighted game the skip (last curler to throw stones and boss as I'm often reminded when not personally assuming that role) stands at the opposite end of the ice and calls the shot. He places his broom down for the thrower to aim at. Obviously with most of our participants not being able to see the other end of the ice, a closer target, like a broom held only several feet from the thrower is permitted.

Some participants aim at the light beam of a flashlight rather than the broom while others, including most of the totally blind curlers, use an audible source to aim at (tapping of a broom on the ice and/or a sweepers voice).

All other facets of the game, like the rules and scoring are the same as those used by our fellow sighted curlers. It should also be noted that a big part of the game of curling is in the fellowship and socialization that takes place among participants OFF the ice. At that point of the activity, the only ice one needs to worry about is that which is served up in little cube in big tall glasses.

If you are interested in learning more and/or even trying the sport of Blind Curling, contact the NFB:AE office at 1-800-561-4774 or e-mail nfbae@shaw.ca and we'll try to put you in touch with someone in your area.

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