There are quite a few recreation and entertainment opportunities in the District of Columbia metropolitan area for blind and visually impaired persons. Currently, many are on hold or offer virtual events during the pandemic crisis. A number of teams and programs have been established offering participation and instruction in various sports and athletic activities. Accommodations exist to make reading and dramatic presentations accessible. Many of these options are described below but new ones continue to arise in this dynamic environment. See the link Events on this site for specific events that offer audio descriptions.
Several companies offer travel programs for blind and low vision persons. Information can be found at the following web sites:
The Metro Washington Association of Blind Athletes (MWABA) seeks to connect visually impaired individuals in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia with activities that will help them live healthy, active and balanced lifestyles. MWaba sponsors goalball clinics. In addition, it supports judo classes. To find out about virtual options during the current pandemic, please write to email@example.com. For more information, visit its web site at:
MWABA holds goalball practices on Saturday. Practices will take place at the Columbia Heights Community Center at 1480 Girard St. NW, in Washington.
Free yoga Classes will generally take place on various Sundays during the afternoon at Bluebird Sky , 3101 12th Street, NE, in the Brookland area, Willow Street Yoga, 8561 Fenton Street (second floor) in Silver Spring, MD, or the Capital MMA Center at 6836 New Hampshire Ave, Takoma Park, MD. Please contact Karla Gilbride at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out when the next class will be held.
MWABA offers tandem bike riding where blind and visually impaired persons are matched with sighted guides. The rides take place on Thursday evenings from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM. Rides alternate from downtown Bethesda and Eastern Market; in both cases riders meet at the metro station where they have special tandem bike lockers installed, and at the end of the ride they will wind up where they started so you can easily hop on the metro, although people often go out for dinner afterwards if you’re so inclined. Rides currently go around 15 miles but if you want to start out with a shorter distance, or are feeling ambitious and want to go longer, this can be arranged. For more information, email Karla Gilbride at:
MWABA will also host beep kickball games on various Saturday afternoons. The game will take place at the northwest corner of Meridian Park at the corner of Euclid and 16th Streets NW. The closest metro station is Columbia Heights. Friends and families are welcome, including the sighted variety. This is a great activity for all ages.
MWABA has partnered with Catalyst Sports to offer adaptive rock climbing clinics at Sportrock in Alexandria on Sunday afternoons starting at 4:30 PM. For more information or to register, contact Judith Erger at email@example.com
Achilles International's DC chapter is a nonprofit running group that pairs athletes with disabilities with able-bodied guides. Workouts are open and free to people of all disabilities, including visual impairment. MWABA is partnering with it to offer work outs on Sundays at 9:00 AM at the DuPont Circle Metro Station. For more information, visit its web site at:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AchillesInternationalDC/
The Out of Sight Dragons (OSD) are a boatload of blind and visually impaired individuals who are enjoying the wet, wild and wonderful sport of dragon boat racing. OSD is proud to be one of the growing number of dragon boating teams in the country with a majority of blind and visually impaired paddlers. It currently has over 20 members from all backgrounds, ranging in age from the mid-20s to over 80, though anyone over the age of 16, whether sighted or not, is welcome to join. The team generally competes in two race meets in May and August on the Potomac River and practices weekly from April through October on the Washington Inlet. For further information, contact Mark Reumann by email at firstname.lastname@example.org To listen to Podcast interviews of team members, visit the link:
Catalyst Sports offers assistive rock climbing for persons with all types of physical disabilities. The DMV Chapter uses the Sportrock indoor climbing gym in Alexandria, Virginia for its climbing events. The events are held monthly and climbers of all experience levels are welcome. For more information, email Judith Erger at email@example.com
Teams of blind and visually impaired bowlers in each of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia participate in the Southeastern Blind Bowlers Association, a division of the American Blind Bowlers Association. The teams bowl weekly during the season that begins shortly after Labor Day and runs through early spring. Each team has both sighted and visually limited members.
The DC Blind Bowlers League plays on Monday evenings from 7:30 until 9:00 at Parklane Bowls in District Heights, Maryland. For further information contact league president Lucinda Reeder by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Maryland Blind Bowlers play on Saturdays from 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. For further information contact league president Rosemarie Rupard by email at
The Capitol Area Rail Blazers play three games on Monday nights starting at 6:30 PM at the Fort Myer Bowling Centre in Arlington, Virginia. For further information contact league president Marie Brinas by email at email@example.com
KEEN Zumba and Fit provides free Zumba classes the (1st Sunday of each month and free Fit classes the 3rd Sunday of each month for young adults aged 19 through 25. The classes are held at the YMCA Anthony Bowen, 1325 W Street, NW in Washington. They run from September-June, except major holidays, starting on May 7 - Zumba and May 21 - Fit, from 12:30 PM until 1:30 PM. For more information, call (301) 461-2278 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For enrollment forms, go to http://www.keengreaterdc.org/new-athlete-enrollment
The Adaptive Sailing program of the Downtown Sailing Center (DSC) in Baltimore offers “Accessible Saturdays” once or twice a month through August where sailors can either use a kneelboat or one- or two-person non-capsizable dinghy to take to the open waters. For more information, call (800) 877-2451 or email email@example.com
Try fully-accessible bocce ball at MedStar National Rehabilitation Center. No experience is needed and you can register for free. For more information, call (202) 877-1427 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Metropolitan Washington Ear, Inc. (MWE) provides free reading and information services for people who are blind, visually impaired or physically disabled who cannot effectively read print, see plays, watch television programs and films, or view museum exhibits. MWE provides dial-in newspaper and magazine services, radio reading services, audio description for dramatic and musical performances and other services. For further information, call (301) 681- 6636 or visit MWE’s web site at:
Most of the larger movie theaters now provide audio description for their films. Upon request they lend headsets without charge that contain a voice description of the action occurring in the movie. The description does not overlap the dialog but is given when the actors are not speaking. It identifies the characters by name thus eliminating the guesswork as to which character is involved in each scene. It also provides some description as to character appearances. Proof of diminished vision is not required. Persons wishing to obtain audio description for any film should inquire at the box office; advance reservations are not necessary.
Fairfax County is offering an audio-described movie club at 1:Room 123C. This program is open to the general public and will feature audio-description for people with visual disabilities. This program is held on the second Friday of the month. Light refreshment will be provided and brown bag lunches are welcome. For title or other information or to request an accommodation, call (703) 324-8380 or email email@example.com.
All cable television providers must provide audio menus; Comcast and Verizon offer these. Many television stations and NetFlix provide audio descriptive tracks for some of their programming.
The Kennedy Center offers audio description for most of its performances upon request which must be made at least three weeks in advance. It also offers a limited number of half priced tickets, on a first come basis, to persons with permanent disabilities including blindness among others. For more information, call its accessibility office at (202) 416-8727 or visit its web site at:
The other various DC area theaters may also offer audio description for certain of their plays, typically through arrangements with MWE mentioned above. Inquiries should be made in advance at each theater to learn which, if any, of their upcoming performances will be audio described.
DC Arts & Access Network (DCAAN)
is a consortium of arts leaders from the Washington, DC metropolitan area, who want to connect cultural venues with the disability community. It provides a calendar of performances, events, and programs in the Washington, DC area with accessibility services. This includes audio description, open captioning, sign-interpreting, sensory friendly programs, touch tours, non-verbal ASL events, and professional development for arts administrators from theaters, museums, parks, zoos, and other cultural venues. For more information visit its web site at:
Many museums and landmark buildings will offer special tours for people with limited or no sight. Often an individual guide will host a private tour describing the various exhibits or building attributes and history. Frequently those on these private tours will be offered the opportunity to feel items on display. While arrangements may occasionally be made at the start of a visit, it is usually wise to call in advance to determine what arrangements can be provided.
Smithsonian visitors who are blind or have low vision can access a groundbreaking technology that uses their smartphone cameras or special glasses to get free on-demand verbal descriptions of everything from individual objects to entire exhibitions from sighted agents. The Aira technology is available at all Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC, and the National Zoo. The new service is provided by Access Smithsonian, which oversees accessibility and inclusion activities for Smithsonian visitors.
The Library of Congress offers free "Touch History" tours. Touch History” is an accessible tour that brings building details to life for visitors through their sense of touch. The verbal description tour—“Touch History”—runs the second Saturday starting at 9:30 AM on the ground floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. The tours will be led by trained docents who will use vivid language to describe the building to participants. Participants will be able to feel various shapes, wall carvings and sculptural elements. The Architect of the Capitol has also provided materials, such as pieces of marble and granite, that provide an intimate encounter with the variety of textures and the weights of materials used in the building’s construction. Participants are advised to check in at the information desk located on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building.
tours providing vivid descriptions of works of art at the National Gallery of Art are conducted by Picture This on the fourth Wednesdays and Saturdays of each month starting at 1:00 PM in the rotunda of the gallery's West Building. The tours last about an hour. For more information about the tours or which art pieces will be discussed on each tour, contact Lorena Baines at (202) 842-6905 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smithsonian American Art Museum presents America InSight. Join a docent-led tour designed for visitors who are blind or have low vision. Enjoy highlights of the art collection through rich verbal description and sensory discussion. Two walk-in tours per month are offered on the 2nd Sundays at 1:30 PM and the 3rd Thursdays at 3:30 PM. America InSight tours are also available by request. America InSight tours meet in the F Street lobby at 8th and F Streets, NW, near the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station. Tours are often followed by live musical performances. For more information, call (202) 633-8550 or visit the web site at:
The National Portrait
Gallery (NPG) has initiated Portrait Insight to provide Tours for People with Blindness or Low Vision request. Experience NPG's collection through vivid verbal description and tactile
objects. Meet at the F Street lobby entrance, which is ramped and provides easiest
access. NPG also has a smart phone app that provides audio description of various portraits. Tours may be requested by e-mailing email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> or calling (202) 633-8506. For future dates, please visit the NPG online calendar at:
Visitors with visual impairments are invited to experience a verbal walking tour of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. The "Touch History" tour, which will run the first and third Tuesday mornings of each month with the exception of September, is led by a specially
trained docent, who uses vivid language to describe the building. Tour participants will use their sense of touch to understand various shapes, wall carvings and sculptural elements. Handling materials used in the construction, such as pieces of marble and granite allows participants to understand the variety of textures in the weights of materials used in construction. For more information, visit the web site at:
The Center for Accessibility of DC Talking Book & Braille Library provides audio and Braille books, magazines and newspapers, equipment and training for persons with limited or no vision and to organizations that serve them. It is affiliated with the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled of the Library of Congress (NLS) and the DC Public Library. It will send both cassette and cartridge books and will authorize its patrons to download books from the BARD (Braille and Audio Recording Download) service of the NLS. It will lend the appropriate equipment to play each of the foregoing and will provide training to use such equipment. The library also offers audio described videos (VHS tapes and DVDs). There is no charge for any of the library’s services. All materials can be returned through the U.S. mail, postage free. The Center for Accessibility is located at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW. For more information, call (202) 727-2142 or visit the web site at:
The Adaptive Technology (AT) Program provides ATs for people who need to use them to access the library's programs and services. AT is broadly defined to consist of products, devices or equipment including assistive software, hardware and systems (such as screen readers, speech-to-text and video-relay-services) that can help people with disabilities get access to the library's programs and services, but also any procedure for success, such as a job search strategy or any methodical approach to achieving a goal that is important to participants.
The At Program provides classes to teach the use of smart phones, JAWS, Voiceover with Apple OSX including audio production with GarageBand, ProTools and Audition, and business development. Contact the AT Program for times,dates and locations. Free conference call recordings may be available for adaptive technology program events.
The AT Program also provides CCTVs at selected branches and divisions of the library. For more information, call (202) 727-2142 or visit the web site at:
Maryland and Virginia provide similar services for their residents. They can obtain these through their local libraries.
The Washington Volunteer Readers for the Blind (WVRB) is a non-profit, privately funded, volunteer, service organization which assists blind and print impaired residents of the Washington DC metropolitan area by providing free audio recordings of books, periodicals, and other printed materials. WVRB has on occasion recorded books by request which are then made available through NLS. For more information, call (202) 727-2142.
Newsline Audio Newspaper Service is an electronic system that allows users to listen to newspapers and magazines through synthetic voice output via any touch-tone telephone, computer or smart phone. It is free of charge. Persons with diminished vision can subscribe through the District of Columbia Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped referenced above or through their local libraries. For more information, call (866) 504-7300 or visit the web site at:
ACB Radio, a project of the American Council of the Blind, streams via the internet, up-to-date and relevant information worldwide for persons who are blind or who have low vision, provides programming produced by blind programmers, and offers a platform on which blind musicians and artists express their talents. The ACB Radio shows can also be heard over ordinary telephone by calling (231) 460-1047. To hear ACB Radio shows on the computer or to learn more about ACB Radio, visit the ACB Radio web site at:
Adrian Spratt is a blind writer seeking to bring writing about disability and disabled characters into the mainstream. His website includes sample stories, novel excerpts, memoirs and essays. One essay discusses writing by other blind authors. Also, he regularly posts short fiction and commentary on a variety of subjects to his website’s blog. His web site is at: