Fremantle Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

Pic­ture: Ben Smith

De­laney Hyde is be­lieved to be the only blind curler in Aus­tralia.

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