At 59, blind athlete embraces new challenges

At 59, Delores "Dee" Butler is just beginning to hit her stride.  She's a regular at Planet Fitness in Decatur, one of three gyms to which she belongs. Butler works out with her sister, Linda. Butler, who is blind, says she's always been pretty active. Lately, she's been stepping up her game.

"I think it's very important," Butler says. "Because a lot of people think of us as, 'Oh, they're blind and they can't do anything.' But you would be surprised. We do everything you can do, except for we just don't use our eyes to do it."

Butler says before she became an athlete before she realized she how visually- impaired she really is, she grew up struggling with eyeglasses that never seemed to be strong enough. When a doctor finally diagnosed her in her early 20's with cone rod dystrophy, it was almost a relief, to know.

"I was like, 'Gosh, yes, someone is finally listening to me.'" Butler says.  "Because I would complain since I was like 14, 15. And I wasn't diagnosed until I was 24!"

Three decades later, Butler can perceive only slight changes in light. But she lives on her own, with her dog Simba, and has raised three grown children as a single mother. She also works, volunteering as a Braille tutor and mentor. And exercise has been a constant in her life. She's part of the he 2017 National Fitness Challenge put on by Georgia Blind Sports and the United States Association of Blind Athletes. 
And if you haven't caught on by now, Butlers says, she's very competitive.Her latest love?  Beep baseball.

"The trick of it is everybody is blindfolded," she says.  "All 6 players in the field are blindfolded, and you're blindfolded."

The ball, about the size of a softball, beeps, and the players follow the sound.Five years ago when a girlfriend suggested they try beat baseball together, Butler was reluctant, at first.

"I really didn't want to play baseball, because I couldn't fathom that a blind person could actually hit a ball, or run to the base or actually run around the field," she says.

But the first time she played, Butler says, she loved it.

"That first I hit that ball and ran to that base, I was hooked!" she says.  "And, to this day, I'm on team and she's gone."

That is Dee Butler's goal:  to keep trying new things, to live her life on her terms.

"It's your choice of what you want to do," Butler says.  "If you want to get out and exercise, you get up and exercise. If you want to  go to work, then get up and go to work.  We don't have a limit."