Technology in sports is nothing new, but rarely has it been used to help the disabled to compete at the same level with athletes who are perfectly fine. We’ve seen technology used to aid athletes who have lost limbs to compete, but what about the ones who are blind or deaf?

It’s something most folks have not spoken about, but that is changing due to Faye Frez-Albrecht, who is a swimming athlete from Gallaudet University. She specializes in swimming the backstroke, but she suffers from deafness and is also legally blind. Being legally blind means she can see, but not very well.

To compete, Faye Frez-Albrecht must focus on the colors close to her eye, as they guide her during competitions.

Why is Faye Frez-Albrecht changing sports forever?

Two years ago she was disqualified from a meet because she took too long to make it to the starting blocks. She says while attempting to make it to her position, she came across several people, including wires, and they slowed her down.


In an effort to improve her chances in the future, Frez-Albrecht and he coach have spent the last two years advocating for something to aid disabled athletes. During the years, the NCAA has decided to implement LED tube lights, an impressive technology officially known as Reaction Lights System, designed with the help of Gallaudet University.

The university has been testing it for quite some time, but it has finally reached a point where it’s ready for use in the real world. Faye Frez-Albrecht will be one of the first competitors to take advantage of the LED blue lights come the 2017-18 academic year.

For now, one can say it’s a huge victory for deaf and blind swimmers competing in colleges within the United States. However, it will take some time for this technology to find itself in the bigger competitions such as the Olympics.

“The basic problem that the deaf athletes have had to face forever — it’s that the way the sport has been set up, they make special rules to allow the deaf athletes to participate, but they don’t go anywhere near trying to make it fair,” said Larry Curran, Gallaudet’s head coach.

A new age for disabled athletes in sports

Nick Santino is the man behind the Reaction Lights System technology. After creating the first prototype, Santino partnered with Doug Matchett, the director of USA Deaf Swimming. From there, both men chose to work with Gallaudet University in 2016 to further push the idea.

If everything goes according to plan, the entire sports world where swimming is concerned could adopt the technology. Deaf swimmers may no longer need to compete in the Special Olympics, but side-by-side with everyone else as equals.

It’s a long shot right now, but things are going well. The technology has been brought into the competitive scene by the NCAA, which means, there’s a good chance others might consider it for uses in the future.

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