KUPUH, Utah — It’s a Sunday afternoon at a pool, and the instructor is in the middle of a workout.
“The instructor has a pool table in front of him, and he’s looking at it with his eyes closed,” said Erin Evers, a swimmer and instructor at Kalas Gym.
“He looks at the pool table and says, ‘The instructor says this is the most important part of the swim.'”
She says that’s when she realized she was missing out on an important part.
“I started thinking, I don’t have to spend time with this instructor, I can just do this with my own eyes,” she said.
Evers, like many others who have lost their eyesight in a swimming accident, says the instructor has an important role to play in the rehabilitation process.
“When you get the accident, it can take a lot of time to recover from it.
I think if you have to see the instructor with the eyes closed, it really gives you that extra time to learn about it, and it can also help you to get the right equipment,” she added.
But that’s not always the case.
In some cases, people may not have had enough time to practice with their own eyes.
“It can be very challenging for people, especially those who have to go through that rehabilitation process,” said Jason D. Jones, executive director of the National Institute of Blindness and Visual Impairment.
In fact, the institute estimates more than half of Americans with severe vision loss are still unable to swim.
And despite the fact that people are still able to do a lot with their eyes, it’s not without risks.
According to the American Vision Association, as of 2015, over 200,000 people were hospitalized for a stroke, and nearly two million people suffered a stroke.
“There are some things that we have to get used to, but other than that it’s very safe and fun,” said Evers.
The American Association of Physical Therapists recommends practicing with your eyes closed for the duration of your swimming session.
In addition, there are many swimming classes available online and in person, which Evers has found is very helpful.
“Sometimes, people don’t know that you can use your eyes and your body, but you can practice it,” she continued.
Eights experience is one of many who are unable to make the jump to the pool with her own eyes, and says she feels like it’s time to move on.
But she’s not leaving swimming alone.
“A lot of people are missing out,” she joked.
“I think a lot people are like me, and they just want to go swimming and don’t want to have to do it with their friends and family.”
If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Eye Institute at 1-800-422-3237.