We are so much more abled than disabled!

Para swimming explained

Swimming is one of the oldest sports for athletes with a disability. World records of swimmers with a visual impairment closely match those of their able-bodied peers.

Competitors measure their skills in freestyle, backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke, and medley events. A FINA (International Swimming Federation) standard eight-lane 50-metre pool is required for competition at the Paralympic Games. Events are conducted in heats of eight competitors per class. The fastest eight swimmers per class compete in the finals.

Swimming is governed by the IPC and co-ordinated by the IPC Swimming Technical Committee, which incorporates the rules of the International Swimming Federation (FINA). The FINA rules are followed with a few modifications, such as race start changes and assistants for athletes with a visual impairment.

Depending on their disability, swimmers can start in the water, from a dive start sitting on the starting platform, or from the typical standing start. Blind and visually impaired swimmers are required to wear blackened goggles and have an assistant (called a “tapper”) to help (tap) them as they approach the pool end wall to make turns or finish the race.

Para-swimming is Swimming Canada’s fully integrated swimming program for person’s with a disability from grassroots to elite. There are 14 officially recognized disability classifications. Para-swimming combines a broad range of disabilities into three categories:

Functional disabilities:

Swimmers in the functional classification system (FCS) compete in classes S1 to S10, and include athletes with Cerebral Palsy and Acquired Brain Injuries, Amputees, Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, Paraplegia and Spina Bifida. Significant disabilities compete in the lower classes, S1 to S5, while S10 athletes are deemed least disabled.

Visual disabilities:

S11, S12 and S13 athletes are those with visual disabilities, with S11 swimmers being completely blind, and 12’s and 13’s having reduced visual acuity and field of vision.

Intellectual Disabilities:

The S14 classification is for those swimmers deemed to have some form of intellectual disability, which must be supported by documentation from several experts, including but not limited to educators and/or psychologists.

To be assigned a disability class for swimming, athletes must go through the classification process. For those athletes in the functional system this usually involves a Bench Test, which is an evaluation of strength, co-ordination and range of motion conducted by a certified medical classifier. A point value ranging from 0-5 is assigned to each task, and at the conclusion of the bench test these point values are tabulated to arrive at a classification recommendation. The higher the point score, the higher the classification.

In order to be assigned a visual disability classification, athletes with visual impairment must simply provide the results of an ophthalmological examination.

Requirements for Classification:

1. Min. 11 years old

2. been with a competitive club for at least 1 year. 3. be able to swim a legal 100IM