Originally Posted by shuumai
I started thinking of mad ideas for helping people to swim without sight. Does anyone have experience with anything that falls into the area of obstacle detection (wall) and guidance (staying in the lane)? I don't mean being hit on the head by a pole with a tennis ball on the end or just stroke counting. More like electronics.
Well, any experience anyone has of being a blind swimmer and/or working with a blind swimmer would be interesting hear from.
I assume that by "a pole with a tennis ball on the end" you mean a tapper
Are you talking about competitive swimming, or fitness swimming, or both? For fitness swimming, there might be a market for a device like the one you describe. But competitive swimming is governed by rulebooks, so swimmers are restricted to what the rulebooks allow.
U.S. Masters Swimming rules allow the use of a tapper as a notification of turns and the finish. Sound devices, however, are explicitly prohibited (except, of course, for the starting tone which all swimmers hear). It is also permissable for a blind swimmer to be assisted getting onto the starting blocks, and to be touched during a relay to notify them when the preceding swimmer has touched the wall.
USA Swimming rules are a bit more generous. In addition to the assistances described for U.S. Masters Swimming, USA Swimming rules also allow the use of a tapper to signal a blind swimmer who surfaces in the wrong lane after a start or turn, and include allowances in stroke judging for a blind swimmer who breaks their stroke cycle because of an inadvertent lane change, or whose arm recovery in breaststroke or butterfly is asymmetric because one arm hit a lane line. A blind swimmer who surfaces in the wrong lane after a start or turn may even be allowed to remain in that lane if it was previously unoccupied. USA Swimming rules also allow an auditory signal to be substituted for lap counters, and allow the use of an auditory command as a signal to start in a relay.
NCAA rules, as far as I can determine, make no special provision for blind swimmers.
I don't mean to imply that if you design an aid for blind swimmers, it won't ever
be possible for them to use it in competitive swimming. But before that could happen, you/they would first have to sell it to one or more of the organizations that govern competitive swimming and persuade them to modify their rulebooks so as to allow it. Since USMS and USA Swimming have already made accomodations for blind swimmers, it's quite possible they might agree, as long as they can be persuaded that it won't give blind swimmers an advantage.