Through TennisSERVES, Sejal Vallabh has brought a mainstream sport to an underserved community. Sejal uses adaptive technology to teach the sport. The foam tennis ball contains metal filaments that rattle upon impact or when hit. Thus, the students can “hear” where the ball is. At the same time, lines of string are taped on the gym floor so the visually impaired athletes can “feel” the court with their feet. The hardest part of learning the sport is timing. By the time the athlete gets to the ball, often times it is too late. That’s why Sejal is working on a new ball that emits a constant sound so that the athlete can hear the ball well in advance and prepare for it much, much earlier.
Sejal discovered TennisSERVES while visiting Tokyo as a high school freshman. An avid player herself, she decided to bring the program home and now partners with schools for the blind and recruits nearby high school students to come and teach. Tennis experience is NOT necessary and Sejal trains all the volunteers via Skype and email to teach the sport. The organization now has chapters in Massachusetts, New York and California, with plans to expand its reach to other states, including Kentucky and Alabama.