CBS squash coach helping the blind find a way forward in the sport
by Mark Squibb/February 17, 2023
Last Friday, with the help of Warren Butler and Jill Baker, Eric Hart gave a squash lesson to Brandon Joy and Kimberlie Hart.
The lesson began with a warm-up routine consisting of various stretches, lunges, and court sprints and running on the spot. Following the warm-up, Brandon and Kim learned how to properly hold the racket and how to hit a forehand drive. Brandon then rallied with both Warren and Jill.
What was remarkable about the practise was not how much the pair learned in just one lesson, but that Brandon is a member of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and has partial vision.
Kim, meanwhile, works with CNIB, and has been one of the ‘go-to’ people within the organization for Hart’s squash group.
“Her support has been outstanding and I’m so very much indebted to her,” said Hart. “Kim had never played squash before, but she wanted to immerse herself in this experience to more fully understand what a squash lesson entailed.”
The goal is to help the Canadian Inclusivity Squash Program learn how to teach squash to people with partial eyesight.
“Kim brought along various simulators that, when put on our eyes, mimicked the eyesight of someone with that eye condition or with that level of eyesight,” said Hart. “The feedback we received from trying to continuously hit a squash ball while wearing each of the simulators and hearing suggestions from Brandon and Kim on how we delivered the various messages during the squash lesson has been extremely insightful. We more fully understand some initial steps that we must take to improve our squash lesson for partially sighted people so that not only will we be more effective in teaching squash to those with vision loss, but participants will more fully enjoy the experience.”
Hart said that new technology, such as squash balls that constantly beep, will make the endeavour easier. He noted the group is contacting companies that make squash gear and requesting they consider selling modified products that are more suitable for folks with vision loss. The organization has modified certain squash rules and hope, with the Town’s permission, to adapt the court by putting highly visible tape on the walls and floor so people with vision problems can more easily orientate.
“There is no reason why squash cannot be taught to people who are legally blind and some who have particular eye conditions,” said Hart. “We would love for these people to contact us if they are interested in giving squash a try. We will provide all the necessary gear, rackets and eye protection, that is required as well as instructions.”
Hart said the Executive Director of the Professional Squash Association Foundation reached out and let him know that to his knowledge, this is the first known instance worldwide when a certified squash coach has given a lesson to a person with significant vision loss.
Hart added his thanks to Butler, Baker, and the Town of CBS for its support.
“We look forward to more fully overcoming the challenge of figuring out how to teach squash to those with vision loss so that we can reach out to this group and offer them another recreational opportunity,” said Hart.
The inclusive squash program launched in 2019.
At the time, it was believed that CBS was the first Canadian town to adopt such a program.