Future Reflections Summer 1991

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World Champion Blind Water Skier Helps Find Jobs For The Blind

Editor's Note: This article was written by Darrell Fry and published in the St. Petersburg Times. It was later reprinted in a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida.

"The hardest part is just believing it can be done and that you'll be safe out there," Ted Henter Jr. said. "There's always that fear of smacking into something."

Henter, a St. Petersburg resident, is a worldþchampion water skier.

Henter's also blind.

The 38-year old man, who grew up in the Panama Canal Zone, has been water skiing since he was 7 years old. He lost his sight in a 1978 automobile accident in England, but saw no reason to give up water skiing just because he was blind.

"My family and friends knew it would be no big deal, but when I told other people they were quite surprised," said Henter, who was also a motorcycle racer before the accident. "It never occurred to them that blind people could ski."

Indeed they can. Henter is the United States National Blind Slalom champion and the U.S. Blind Trick Skiing champion. And two weeks ago at the inaugural World Water Skiing Trophy for the Disabled in Wraysbury, England, Henter took the gold medal in the slalom and the bronze in the trick competition. The event on Heron Lake near London drew more than 40 disabled skiers from 10 countries.

"They had an event for (ski) jumping and only one person made a successful landing," said Henter, who also snow skis, roller skates and surfs. "I've never done that and I didn't want to try it then."

The slalom course for blind skiers is different from one used for sighted skiers. Instead of following a course outlined by buoys, the blind skiers zig-zag back and forth across the wake of the boat. The skier who crosses the wake the most times within a specified time is the winner.

But the trick skiing event isn't much different from regular competition. Henter's best moves are 180- and 360-degree mid-air turns and a trick called "side-sliding" in which he turns his skis perpendicular to the rear of the boat.

Henter gets help from his father and wife in the boat. One person drives while the other gives signals to Henter by blowing a whistle. For instance two short blasts from the whistle tell the start. One short blast means he's in position and signifies the start of his run. Two more short blasts means the run is over and one long blast as the boat heads for shore tells him to let go of the tow rope.

Through his example, Henter has been trying to show other blind people that there's nothing they can't do.

In 1985, Henter who has a degree in mechnaical engineering from the University of Florida, started his own business in St. Petersburg called EnTech Co. It's a consulting firm for companies interested in hiring blind people for various jobs.

Business is good, Henter said. When he's not on skis, he's flying around the country training blind people for various jobs. One of his biggest clients is Federal Express.

"I also design software and hardware that makes computers talk, so blind people can use them," he said. "I want to help change the way society looks at blind people. Once people realize a blind person can water ski, then they'll realize blind people can be employed, and they can be successful

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