“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby”? NOT! (If you are Visually Impaired) by Diane Berberian

Image a pair of black out glasses with the no symbol over themFact: 44 years of participation in athletics and organized sports and I was already in college when the Title IX movement happened (women’s equality). Call me naive, but I did not imagine that this many years later I would be experiencing a new form of prejudice. I am Visually Impaired and I want to be included in the sport of triathlon!

So what is bothering me? I am visually impaired (legally blind) and I want to compete with my peers. However, to compete in a Paratriathlon Championship event, I will be asked to wear BLACK OUT GLASSES. When I refuse to wear the glasses, I am placed in a category called Open Physically Challenged. I want my name in the results and I want to know where I rank (even if last)!

I want to be recognized as Diane Berberian (TRI-6), the woman who continues to pursue her passion for the sport of triathlon despite some loss of vision. If I am to wear these glasses, I not only compromise my safety but my dignity!

Triathlon should be a sport of inclusion irrespective of sex, race, or disability…or in my case, some ability (not blind/not fully sighted). My vision is 20/200 with only half the field of vision in one of my eyes. Yet I am not disabled enough for ITU standards.

I am not an age grouper nor am I blind, so I do not exist? I participated as an age grouper since 1989 until 2010. By 2011, my vision declined and when I searched for the answer as to how I could continue, it was with a sighted guide. With an experienced triathlete (and friend), a tether, and a borrowed tandem bicycle, I completed Ironman Texas in May 2011.

In 2012, I was confident that I would continue and pursue high performance championships. I was not prepared for how I would react when I was told that I had to block out all of my remaining vision if I wanted to be included in these competitions. I do not want to be blind; I am still learning how to live my life with a visual impairment, including no driving, career change and learning skills to live independently.

It seems that with the inclusion of Paratriathlon into the 2016 Paralympic Games, the championship races are being used to identify Paralympic contenders. TRI-6 category is for BLIND/VISUALLY IMPAIRED but for me, that means wearing the black out glasses to compete.

I do not know if I am a Paralympic hopeful because I am not being given the opportunity to compete with my peers.

What message are we sending to our visually impaired youth? That they should not bother to dream of becoming a Paralympian? There is no place for a visually impaired person unless you are willing to follow rules that impact your dignity and safety? The ITU is making a decision for ME! I am not being included; I am being excluded by a ruling!

What would you do?

Let your voice be heard!

Sign the petition to the International Triathlon Union to remove the ruling on change.org and show your support of our rights by downloading this Facebook cover photo and attach this message to it.

I support the rights of all TRI-6 Paratriathletes. Sign the petition to have the ITU remove the black out glasses ruling. Let’s make change happen! http://chn.ge/Xa43IS

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