Sports 4 The Blind


History of Bowling by the BLIND, and the American Blind Bowling Association, INC

     When or where bowling by the blind started is not officially recorded. The first known record of bowling was sometime around 1910 at the Overbrook school for the Blind in Philadelphia where a limited program was conducted on a lane shorter than standard. Other residential schools for the blind were known to conduct limited bowling activities in spaces normally used for recreation and mobility activities. What guidance systems were used is not recorded, although it is thought that a variety of devices, such as string, ropes, bannisters, mats and walls were pressed into service as guides. For lack of a good guidance system, adequate bowling facilities, and lack of human understanding by sighted individuals, most bowling by the blind ended upon graduation from resident schools for the blind. The blind bowlers on the east coast, particularly around the Philadelphia, New York city and other large city areas managed to keep the sport alive and in the early 1940's a Philadelphia group banded together and formed a small league which traveled to various cities to compete with blind individuals and groups located in the area

     The Delaware County, Pennsylvania Blind Bowling Association conceived the idea of a national tournament for the blind and finally got such a tournament underway in 1948 in Philadelphia. The first "NATIONAL" blind tournament drew only thirteen five man teams, most from the Philadelphia area The second tournament held in Brooklyn, New York in 1949, drew a few more teams, and interest in organized bowling by the blind started to grow.-

     The thought of forming a National Blind Bowling Association was planted at the Third National Tournament in 1950, and in 1951 the American Blind Bowling Association was born. The basic concept was an organization to promote, encourage and regulate bowling by and for the blind. The ABBA has grown steadily and is now the largest organization for recreational activities devoted to the blind population.

     Although membership in the ABBA is primarily in the industrial belt from Chicago to New York and the fringes, National tournaments have been held on both coasts and in Florida. Portland, Oregon and Tallahassee, Florida have both hosted National tournaments, as well as many cities in the rest of the United States and Canada. The growth of the organization was steady until 1978, when membership leveled off at about 3000 total members in 150 or so leagues throughout the US. and Canada.

     The ABBA is currently embarking on an extensive program of publicity, instruction and organization to bring more groups into organized bowling and provide a proven avenue for mainstreaming many previously restricted visually handicapped individuals.

     The ABBA provides general supervision and guidance for leagues and has instituted an awards system for its members.. In addition, they have created special categories for the totally blind and partially sighted as well as provisions for rewarding the sighted individuals who provide necessary assistance and compete with them on a regular basis.

     The ABBA decided in the early 1950's that a simplified and somewhat standard guidance system was needed if blind bowling was to expand. The Association took the problem to Martin Mahler, a totally blind 'Brooklyn business man, who developed and produced the basic system currently in use. The size and design of the device has not been standardized for league operation as yet, although the National tournament calls for a 15 foot rail beginning at the foul line, with the option of a 12 foot rail being available. The present guidance systems are a great improvement over the improvized systems previously in use but still leave much to the whims of the various leagues as to location type and length. The ABBA is currently conducting research on guidance systems and is constantly working toward standardization of the game and equipment to be used

     The main headquarters of the ABBA is usually located in the town of residence of the current Secretary / Treasurer The headquarters thus is rather transient as official changes of officers occurs. The current Secretary / Treasurer is located in Detroit, Michigan. The lack of funds to employ a permanent Secretary and the unavailability of a permanent location for a headquarters are two of the major problems the ABBA is currently working to solve.

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