Did you know that blind people CAN play
tennis in very nearly the same way that anyone else does? Itfs a fantastic
sport. And itfs just getting started.
Given the long history of tennis, Blind Tennis is a
relatively new sport. It was originally created by Miyoshi Takei in 1984 in
Kawagoe, Saitama prefecture, Japan. At the time, Miyoshi was a blind high school
student at the Saitama Prefectural School For The Blind & Visually Impaired
and he had a dream to hit a tennis ball.
Visually impaired versions of
various other sports such as volleyball, table tennis and baseball already
existed at the time. But, in these ball games, a ball was rolled on the floor
rather than bounced. This was not what Miyoshi was looking for. He wanted to
play tennis in three dimensions with a ball bouncing. He went to see his
physical education teacher and asked for advice. The teacher was interested in
his idea and they started to experiment together at the gymnasium in Saitama
prefectural school for the blind and the visually impaired.
and most important task was to make a special ball that would allow visually
impaired players to locate its position by the sound it emitted as it bounced or
was hit. At first, they tried to use a toy plastic ball, in which they put some
lead balls. It rattled and the sound was good. But the height of the bounce was
not appropriate. They continued to experiment with various other materials but
it was proving very difficult to make the perfect Blind Tennis.
graduating from school, Miyoshi entered a special education course in Tokyo to
learn physiotherapy. He took his original ball to the Tokyo Sports Centre For
The Disabled. He asked an instructor to play tennis with him. At first, the
instructor was uncertain about Miyoshi's idea, but he was deeply moved by his
At that time, short tennis came from Sweden. A sponge ball
is used for short tennis. One day a man who works for the wheelchair tennis
association showed a sponge ball to Miyoshi. He had an idea of using a sponge
ball. Then he went to a shop to find a ball, and he got a larger sponge ball. He
cut it in half and put a table tennis ball for the blind and visually impaired
in the middle.
It was very challenging for Miyoshi to make contact with
the ball at first but it was also a huge step forward for three dimentional
sports for the blind and impaired. With its sponge exterior and a rattling table
tennis ball at its core the National Rehabilitation Center For The Disabled
(NRCT) in Tokorozawa in Saitama started a project to manufacture the special
tennis ball for the blind and set the rules.
Miyoshi's dream was coming
true. The visually impaired people, who were studying there, lent good advice.
Furthermore, with the help of The Japanese Disabled Sport Association, a
yet-unknown sport was about to be born. It was on the 21st of October in 1990
that Miyoshi's dream was realized at last. The first national tournament was
held in NRCT. Miyoshi stood on the court feeling very excited and happy. He had
accomplished his goal.
It is estimated that about 350 players are now enjoying it regularly. The
racket, being short and light, everybody from infants to the elderly can
play it. And best of all, both challenged and able-bodied can play Blind
Tennis together, either as opponents or in a mixed-doubles format with
visually impaired player partnering someone with normal eyesight.
Our goal is to make Blind Tennis a Paraympic
event and a sport which is played far and wide around the world.
B1 (totally blind)
42ft ~@21ft. (12.8m@~@6.4m) Tactile lines on all lines except for the service
B2 and B3 (partially sighted)
60ft. ~@27ft. (12.28m ~@8.23m)
Any racket accepted by the ITF in accordnace with court size.
B1 max.. 23 inches
B2 B3 max. 25 inches
A special type of sponge ball is used for Blind Tennis. Being soft and
light, it is safe for the visually impaired when the ball hits their body.
The size of the ball is 9cm in diameter. In the middle of the ball, there
is a plastic tennis ball which contains five steal balls.
It produces a nice, audible sound when it bounces and allows the
visually impaired player to judge the approximate height, direction and speed of
the incoming ball.
Each ball is specially manufactured and costs 945yen (Approx. US$8)
If you would like to order the balls, please e-mail Ayako Matsui
One box contains 12 balls. (11,340yen including tax)
(more than 60 balls (5 boxes) one ball costs 900yen
more than 300 balls (25 boxes) one ball costs 840yen
You need to pay the freight and a commision charge for both your bank and
a Japanese bank.
How to order the balls
Shoei Industry Co., Ltd has developed a new ball.
It is robust. And it has a better sound and less irregurlar than the old ball.
It is an official ball of Japan Blind Tennis Federation(JBTF) from April
It is an official ball for IBTA for 12 months from the first international
Ayako Matsui Proofreader Phillip Azar