Improving Visual Skills Off the Ice

Editorial by Britnee Hughes, Occupational Therapist at CABVI

For individuals who are legally blind, use of remaining vision is strongly encouraged. Visual scanning can be an important asset, whether you use it for safe mobility, cooking, or getting ready for the day. Visual scanning skills can be an asset in many sports, including hockey. Location of the puck is essential to supplement the puck noise, but scanning can also be useful to assess where you are on the ice and increase your awareness of other players. Visual scanning skills are important to practice off the ice to make sure your residual vision is sharp. 
Below are some activities you can do to strengthen scanning skills:
Peripheral Awareness
Materials needed:
– An unfamiliar room or hallway
– Pictures or objectsPick an unfamiliar area or a room that has many targets on the wall. Pick one object on a wall directly in front of you and focus on that. While keeping your focus on the target, attempt to identify other objects around the room. Try to describe the objects. After you complete this task, check your accuracy by taking your focus off the object in front of you. You can increase the difficulty by standing on one foot or walking. 

You could also perform this activity in a familiar room while using props. Locate a large blank wall, to enhance contrast. Try using a wall that is white or light in color. 

Place numbers or letters on sheets of paper (maybe numbers 1 to 10, or part of the alphabet letters A to G). When selecting your paper or marker for writing, use the color you can see best. You can either write the letters in your preferred color or use paper in high contrast colors. Position yourself in the middle, facing the wall. Close your eyes and have a friend affix the papers in various locations on the wall. Can you find the letters of the alphabet or numbers in order? How quickly can you do so? Over time, and with practice, can you increase the speed of your scanning? You may increase the difficulty of this task by having someone else move these targets around the room (without you watching). Once complete, start the activity.

Eye Movements: Pursuits and Saccadic
Materials needed:
– Flashlight
– Dark room

Pursuits: Standing in a dark room (in front of a wall), run the flashlight across the wall. Change the direction and the speed of the light. You can change the speed from slow to fast, and the direction up to down, left to right, in circles or diagonals. 

Saccadic eye movement: Without moving your head, just your eyes, move the flashlight all over the wall. While you are moving the flashlight, quickly turn it on and off. This will make your eyes jump across the wall to keep up with the light. 

Color suggestion: Think about the color of the light. Is there a filter or a different color light that may help you with this activity? You may also think about the color of the wall you are using. What color would make the best contrast for you?

Yes/No Exercise
Materials needed:
– Object such as a picture of a card

While holding an object in your hand, hold one arm straight out. Begin nodding your head up and down. While doing this, keep your eyes focused on the target in your hand. Complete the activity by moving your head from side to side. Again, maintain your fixation on the target in your hand.

You can make this activity harder by moving your head faster, or moving your hand in the opposite direction of your head.

Color suggestion: Make the picture on the card a color of your preference or add contrast like a white photo on a black background.

For questions, I can be reached via phone or email at 315.797.2233 ext. 4041 or

Reference for this article:
ISVA – International Sports Vision Association. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2021, from

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