Each month Bowls Victoria showcase a Bowler with a Disability (BWD). We bring you their story and discuss their thoughts on the opportunities available to BWD. Click here to read their stories.
Following a stroke, Margaret Rosewall became vision impaired and lost strength in her bowling arm, but there was no stopping her from playing the sport she loves.
Margaret first tried bowls twenty years ago as a sighted bowler at a Learn to Bowl program. It wasn’t until twelve years ago that bowls took on a full-time role in her life, as she joined Bendigo VRI Bowling Club. Margaret slotted straight into the pennant and tournament sides at her new club.
Six years later Margaret suffered the stroke, becoming vision impaired (VI). She continued with Bendigo VRI as a member and social bowler until rejoining the pennant team two years ago. Not only did Margaret have to learn how to play bowls with a vision impairment, but due to weakness in her right arm Margaret was now left-handed. These challenges did not deter Margaret as she worked hard to get back to bowls. She credits her “love of bowls without doubt” in helping her to recover from her health problems. Bowls was used as part of Margaret’s rehab program and greatly assisted her recovery in all aspects.
Margaret began playing with Blind Bowls Victoria six years ago. Travelling around many of the Victorian greens each Sunday she gained valuable experience.
Margaret doesn’t see herself as having a disability. “As long as I have my director, husband Brian. He is responsible for the line, distance and weight. I follow his directions. In answer to the common question, “no my bowls don’t have bells in them!” she laughs.
You may be wondering how a bowler with a vision impairment can play when they can’t see the jack or may not be able to see anything at all. Directors are a crucial part of the game for a VI bowler. A director will stand in front, behind or next to the bowler. They will describe the head to them, tell them the distance of the jack from the mat and much more. If the bowler has some vision, they can aim for their directors’ foot for the correct line, also relying on their director for weight. It is an impressive feat as a person with a vision impairment to play a sport that so heavily relies on using sight. Many people watching a VI bowler for the first time are stunned at their abilities, playing just as well, if not better than many of their sighted teammates.
We asked Margaret her thoughts on the opportunities available for bowlers with a disability. “Bowlers with disabilities are at a disadvantage as many clubs don’t have disability friendly access to the club and some greens. Even in the year 2020 many bowlers don’t see the bowler behind the disability. There are some clubs who do not encourage disabled bowlers. Remember there are no disabilities, only abilities.”
Margaret has represented Victoria on four occasions at the Australian Blind Bowls National Championships, winning one Gold, one Silver and two Bronze medals. “My blind bowls pairs partner and I entered the 2018 Vic Open Pairs and although we did not win a game we were only defeated by a narrow margin, but we had a lot of fun.” Says Margaret. She has also come Runners Up twice at the Multi-Disabilities Championships (now known as State Disabilities Championships).
Margaret is very thankful to the people who have been part of her bowls journey from sighted bowler to vision impaired bowler, “With help from my director, coaches, my teammates, my Guide Dog and my club I have been able to reach these achievements.”
Bowls Victoria have a list of Accessible Clubs to assist people with a disability find a local club suitable to their needs. If you would like to add your club to this list, please contact the Bowls Victoria Participation Team at email@example.com or (03) 9861 7100.