US goalball player Tyler Merren has won 25,000 USD in a prestigious competition to develop an audio-based fitness app aimed at people with visual impairments.
The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition was launched by LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in 2017, annually awarding three blind people funds to fulfil a dream, turn an idea into a reality or target an unusual goal.
With his 25,000 USD Holman Prize, Merren will develop ReVision Fitness, an audio-based fitness mobile application.
“While there are many fitness apps out there,” said Merren, “they don’t provide an adequate description of exercises for people who are blind.”
The app will include descriptions of equipment, nutrition, heart rate monitoring, and journal capabilities all in an accessible format.
Merren is a resident of Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he lives with his wife and four children. He is a three-time Paralympian for Team USA with two medals. His love for adaptive sports began in 1999 at a sports education camp hosted by the United States Association of Blind Athletes.
“The idea is that if you can do it as a sighted person in another fitness app, I want a blind person to have that in my app and the Holman Prize will make that possible.”
The Holman Prize judging panel loved the idea of many aspects of fitness usually found by painstakingly trying out each app’s usability and accessibility, being available to many blind individuals in the one place, in the one comprehensive app.
Credit: OIS Photos
The Holman Prize is named after the 19th-century blind explorer James Holman, the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe. He holds the further distinction of being the most prolific traveller in history, sighted or blind, prior to the invention of modern transportation.
And it is in the unquenchable spirit of James Holman that this year, 109 blind people from 22 countries, posted their 90 second Youtube pitch to be considered for the Holman Prize.
A panel of thirteen distinguished blind judges
carried out the unenviable and difficult task of whittling down the 16 semi-finalists to three outstanding blind blue-sky thinkers.
The two other winners of the 2020 Holman Prize are Dr. Birendra Raj Sharma Pokharel and Tiffany Brar.
Dr Pokharel will use the funds to provide training for blind women in Nepal to become Medical Tactile Examiners in the early detection of breast cancer. The new programme will provide an employment path for up to 30 blind Nepalese women who traditionally face enormous barriers to employment.
Brar’s Holman ambition is called ‘Reaching the Unreached.’ Brar will expand services for the blind into rural and tribal south India. Brar’s goal is to train more than 300 blind people across four states: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Karnataka. She hopes to help the teenagers enrol in school and adults participate in either residential training centres for the blind or help them find jobs.