Bowling if You are Blind or Low Vision

bowling with guide rails
Man bowling with guide rails

Bowling when blind or low vision is not only possible but is also highly competitive. Ask anyone in the American Blind Bowlers Association about tournaments, training, and rules!

Blind and low-vision athletes can compete in bowling through one of two adaptive methods: sighted guidance or a guide rail.

Sighted Guidance

When using the sighted guidance method, a sighted assistant aligns the blind bowler on the approach before the delivery. The bowler is aligned on the spot from which he or she wishes to execute the delivery. For example, the reference point can be a particular board on the approach.

Using a Guide Rail

Guide rails can help with both your approach and delivery. These lightweight tubular metal rails are easy to assemble and help guide you toward the pins. They can be assembled, disassembled, and stored easily. Some alleys or bowling centers have guide rails already in place or available for loan.

Stan Smith, 66, of the Blind Bowlers Association in Delaware, says this about guide rails: “The rail runs from the foul line back to the beginning of the approach. Some people keep their hand on the rail the whole time, others use it to line themselves up. Bowling, if it’s done right, is repetitive. It’s just a matter of taking the same number of steps and getting your feet in the right place. Everything has to be coordinated. The railing is your guide to keep you straight on the approach.”

  • The guide rails are held in place on the bowling approach by the weight of the bowling balls. They can be used in any bowling center without damaging the lanes or interfering with the operation of automatic bowling equipment.
  • The rails are placed alongside the bowling approach and extend back from the foul line toward the seating area, on either the left or the right side of the alley, depending upon whether the bowler is left- or right-handed.
  • The bowler slides one hand along the guide rail while releasing the ball with the other hand, noting his or her starting position in relation to the guide rail.
  • The bowler can determine whether the ball is being released in the center of the lane or near one edge since the guide rail is positioned to run straight along the first board outside the lane’s width.
  • An assistant can identify the pins either knocked down or left standing by calling out the numbered locations of the pins. The information tells the bowler where to roll the next ball or how to modify the delivery.
  • If you have low vision, a bright-colored ball can provide helpful contrast against the bowling lane.
  • The guide rail is the only adaptation. There are no bumpers in the gutters or any other concessions.