WHEN Australia’s only blind curler slides her rock towards the house, she is forever thankful for her curling family.
Delaney Hyde is the only blind curler registered with Curling WA and as far as the association is aware, she is also the only one in the entire country.
She has cone-rod dystrophy, an eye disorder which affects the light sensitive cells of the retina and results in the loss of vision over time, meaning her central and peripheral vision is below average and she lives with less than 10 per cent eyesight.
The Atwell resident, who began playing two years ago and now plays twice a week at Cockburn Ice Arena, said she fell in love with the gameplay and tactical element of the sport at a stage in her life where her ability to play other sports had diminished.
“As my eyesight declines, doors are closing for sport; I stopped doing ball sports because of the issue I had not being able to see them,” she said.
“I find either people don’t understand how to be supportive or are too competitive where they don’t want to take the time to support someone with a disability. At curling, everyone has a good time, they want everyone to have a positive experience.”
Her teammates have gone to great lengths to help her adapt to the game, studying how blind players in Canada played the game and bringing those methods Down Under.
“They relay what the skip (the player who calls the shots) is saying at the closer counter, the one that’s only about two three metres away, so that I can still aim for the same spot that my team would aim for,” Hyde said.
“Once I’ve thrown my stone, I actually get up and follow the stone down the other end so I can see what’s happening and where it ends.”
Hyde said the curling community had been welcoming and inclusive since she started and they also catered for other players who lived with a disability, such as those in wheelchairs or with hearing impairments.
“They were more than accommodating; they gave me a call, found out what they could do to help, if I needed a guide or someone to pick me up,” she said.
“I struggled in the beginning with seeing the lines on the ice, so they actually re-did the lines and made them really accessible to see.”
In addition to being a welcoming crowd, Hyde also said WA’s curling community was an ever-growing one, with nearly 100 members and plans for their own independent curling facility.
“There is no designated curling ice in Australia. We play on what’s called arena ice; it makes it incredibly hard to play because you get ridges and dips where people have been skating,” she said.
“The demand is there; it would mean we could have a blind league and wheelchair league participating because we would have the time on the ice.”
Delaney Hyde is believed to be the only blind curler in Australia.