/ Teaching a blind man to boulder, from scratch

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Madden - on 21 May 2013
So, I work as a bouldering instructor (somewhat of a grand title!) at my local wall, and run a session on Wednesday evenings. For the last couple of weeks, a lad (in his 20s or so) has started turning up who is completely blind, but is mad-keen to climb! So far, it's been a case of describing where a hold is for him, or tapping on the hold so he can (vaguely) hear where it is. Obviously, this is fairly labour intensive, especially with me meant to be running a session for other people too!

So I've been doing some thinking, and have come up with one idea to help him climb, but wondered if the collective UKC conciousness could think of more.

My idea is this (and I've tested it on blindfolded volunteers)...
Take a problem with large, protruding holds (or stick some drawing pins in the wall near the holds), and wrap string around each hold, and along to the next one. The climber can then follow the string with their hands, with it getting in the way of their climbing very little. It seems to work quite well, although I haven't tried it with the blind lad yet (that's tomorrow).

So does anybody have any more ideas as to how I can help him climb more autonomously, but follow routes, and challenge himself?

Lessworkmoreclimbing - on 21 May 2013
In reply to Madden:
How about recording an audio guide to a series of problems, similar to the advice you're giving but he could listen and relisten independently? It would only be the descriptions of where and what the holds were, he'd have to work out the beta himself of how to use the holds. The string sounds ok but a bit fiddly/ drawing attention to him whereas lots of people climb with iPods on.
Madden - on 21 May 2013
In reply to Lessworkmoreclimbing: Like it, that could possibly work.
winhill - on 21 May 2013
In reply to Madden:

I don't like drawing pins anywhere near people in bare feet or climbing shoes, alothugh the string sounds like a good idea, for hand holds at least.

There was an item on blind climbing on radio 4 today, mentioned a course at glenmore lodge for blind climbers and something to do with an MCoS section for blind climbers, IIRC.
trouserburp - on 22 May 2013
In reply to Madden:

If you haven't already you should ask him what he wants, what ideas he has. He might not mind the challenge of finding the holds, even if it takes a few extra falls. Also it's ok to let your clients help him, freeing you up, some people like helping

Having said that maybe you could rig up some sound emitting devices, maybe attach them to the holds with rubber bands/magnets/blu-tac?

Somewhere like Maplin would be able to help with the electronics bit. Cell battery/holder, buzzer/sounder, maybe a switch. Imagine you could do it for £3 each. Might even be able to make a device worth sharing?

Good luck with it anyway
Camm on 22 May 2013
In reply to Madden:
Sounds good, it's cool that you've put effort into it for him, giving him something to look forward to! I reckon he'll soon develop a technique like scanning with a hand for holds.

kyle_wilson01 - on 22 May 2013

I'd love for blind climbers to be able to watch this. But that's the cruelty of it. Scanning seems to work for those guys, even on lead.
kate8 on 22 May 2013
In reply to Madden:

Using a board (or lump of plasticine maybe or a mini sculp of the wall made with papier mache) and small lumps of blue tack you could quickly create a mini plan of the problem for him to feel and memorise before climbing.
martinph78 on 22 May 2013
In reply to kyle_wilson01: Wow, credit where credit's due!
Rigid Raider - on 22 May 2013
In reply to Madden:

The mini plan is a good idea. How about a verbal commentary composed of a series of pre-agreed codes smilar to what rally drivers and their navigators use?
lanky_suction1 on 22 May 2013 - whois?
In reply to Madden:

I know someone who is involved in blind lead climbing comps (international), the competitors have someone shouting out where the holds are as you have been doing. They also have a mini model as has been suggested, using some sort of braille. Apparently in Russia, someone got a handful of gravel and some pritt stick and stuck them onto some card!
zoobizooretta - on 22 May 2013
In reply to Madden:

Have you thought about a long pole with a bell on it, and a piece of string so you can stop it ringing. (or a cycling bell and a string on the trigger)

You can move the bell to the next hold and let go of the string (or pull the string if you use a bike bell) so the bell will sound. He'll be able to gauge where the hold is by where the bell is. Just like they do with blind football.
jkarran - on 22 May 2013
In reply to Madden:

I'd ask him what works for him, whether he has any ideas and I'd see if you can share the routefinding time with your other clients assuming you're in a group. It gets everyone thinking about how to climb which is good for them as well as the guy who needs holds identifying (presumably there are several problems per panel so simply feeling for them is not an option).

Rare earth magnets taped to bits of wool would make for a quick, safe, re-useable way of marking the way to the next hand hold if he likes that idea but it's not so good for the feet.

Presumably he's going to need a spotter to help with awkward landings, landing safely without depth perception is not easy. There's also the day to day stuff like not climbing over people or walking under them that will be a challenge. In that case a bit of teamwork on the route finding is probably still the best approach.

Have you tried the BMC, CWA and the RNIB to see if they can point you toward anything or anyone?
andyathome on 22 May 2013 - []
In reply to Madden:
Get in touch with Carey at the BMC who is secretary of the BMC Equity Steering Group. There's been a lot of work on paraclimbing at the BMC recently including working with the blind.
Nick_Scots on 22 May 2013
A friend of mine takes a guy in his 60s climbing at Ratho, top roped. He gets some help but he just get's on with it. I think his balance is really good and he swims a lot.

Obviously a really inspirational guy.
climb the peak - on 22 May 2013
In reply to Madden: What about 3D arrow shapes stuck to each hold he goes to that point in the direction of the next hold he's got to reach?

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