Partially Blind Athlete Fighting Triathlon's 'Black out Glasses' - KMSP-TV

Partially Blind Athlete Fighting Triathlon's 'Black out Glasses' Rule

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A partially blind world class athlete from Michigan has filed a Federal lawsuit in Detroit over some new rules being imposed on visually-impaired athletes who compete in triathlons.

Aaron Scheidies has been an athlete all his life, first at Farmington High School and later at Michigan State. Now 30 years-old, he's a seven time world champion and eight time Triathlon national champion. He has competed in more than 200 triathlons, including the Iron Man competition. Last year he was a finalist for an Espee award. You'd never know he has only 20 percent of his vision.

But now Aaron is facing an even greater obstacle by new rules he says are being imposed by USA Triathlon, International Triathlon Union, and 3D Racing LLC.

Those rules will force blind and visually impaired athletes, to wear "black out" glasses while they compete. The idea is to level the playing field, so all the athletes have the same level of impairment, to make it more competitive.

Aaron says it's a dangerous idea that puts all athletes at risk. "Any one that has any vision, any light perception at all is going to use that vision for their balance. So the black out glasses are basically knocking out one-third of someone's balance system" he said.

Attorney Richard Bernstein, who himself is legally blind agrees, "it is simply illegal to require someone to become more disabled as an accommodation for them to be able to compete."

The International Triathalon Union released a statement to FOX 2 that says in part,  "...the rule exists to create a fairer competition for all athletes because partially blind athletes and completely blind athletes compete in the same category and partially blind athletes have an advantage over those who are completely blind. This rule is in place only on the run portion, not in the swim and not in the bike portions. No athlete has ever been denied the opportunity to race because of this rule. A Physically Challenged Open Division allows all athletes to participate."

Aaron says requiring black out glasses shows no understanding of the blind and is just bad judgement. On Wednesday he filed a federal lawsuit in Detroit saying he's not looking for financial damages he just wants the organizations to drop what he calls a very dangerous requirement.

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