Cane and Able Fitness Is Making the Gym Less Intimidating for People with Visual Impairments
Plus, the most important exercises for people with visual impairments to add to their workout routine.
Courtesy of Evan Schwerbrock
In 2014, Evan Schwerbrock was living a pretty normal life for a 22-year-old. He’d recently graduated from college with a degree in Health Sciences, and he was working in the fitness industry, sharing his passion for strength training, staying active, and biomechanics. But during a recreational volleyball game, he realized that something was off with his vision.
“All of a sudden, the lights were messing with me,” he recalls. After losing sight of the ball, he got hit in the face. “Later, I threw the ball up to serve and completely lost sight of it,” he says. “I had to make my best guess as to when it was coming back down, and I barely hit it.”
Assuming it was a contact lens issue, Schwerbrock made an appointment with an eye doctor and didn’t worry too much. But the night before his appointment, while driving on a foggy highway, he could barely see two feet in front of his car and was crawling along at barely 30 miles per hour, he says. It was at that point that he realized his vision issue was serious.
His exam resulted in a diagnosis of Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), a rare genetic disease that results in significant, permanent vision loss in both eyes, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Within two weeks of the first onset of symptoms, he was legally blind.
But Schwerbrock hasn’t let his vision impairment keep him from doing what he loves: lifting weights and helping others start their strength-training journey. In July 2020, he took that passion one step further by creating Cane and Able Fitness, an online resource of adaptive fitness information for people with visual impairments. Here’s how Schwerbrock is making fitness more accessible for anyone with a visual impairment; plus, his best gym advice for individuals with vision loss.
How Cane and Able Fitness Was Born
After his LHON diagnosis, Schwerbrock attended a master’s program for kinesiology in Chicago near his sister, who was able to help him navigate the city and his new lifestyle — one that now involved a cane….