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Learn all about classification

Classification provides a structure for competition. Athletes competing in Paralympic sports have an impairment that leads to a competitive disadvantage in sport.

Consequently, a system has to be put in place to minimize the impact of impairments on sport performance and to ensure the success of an athlete is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus. This system is called classification.

There are three types of classification: physical (S1-S10), visual (S11-S13) and intellectual (S14).

Ten eligible impairments

There are eight different types of physical impairments:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Loss of limb or limb deficiency
  • Leg-length difference
  • Short stature
  • Hypertonia
  • Ataxia
  • Athetosis

In addition to athletes with physical impairment, athletes with visual or intellectual impairment are also included in the classification system.

Visual impairment occurs when there is a damage to one or more of the components of the vision system, which can include:

  • impairment of the eye structure/receptors
  • impairment of the optic nerve/optic pathways
  • impairment of the visual cortex

Athletes with an intellectual impairment / learning disability are limited in regards to IQ and adaptive behaviour, which is diagnosed before the age of 18 years.

Once classified, swimmers are allocated a classification status.

Where a swimmer is allocated a classification (S1-S14) they will also be allocated relevant exception codes.

There are a number of conditions that do not meet the eligibility criteria as follows:

ADHD Epilepsy
Arthritis Haemophilia
Aspergers Hydrocephalus
Asthma Learning difficulties
Autistic spectrum Obesity
Cystic Fibrosis Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) including - Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
Diabetes Scoliosis
Dyspraxia Transplants
Ehlers’ Danlos Syndrome  

Please note that this list is not exhaustive, however it provides a guide.

It must be noted that even swimmers who have a diagnosis that meets the eligibility criteria for classification may still not be sufficently impaired to gain a classification.

Click the buttons below to find out more about the classification process for physical, visual and intellectual impairment.

Physical Impairment

To be classified with a physical impairment, a swimmer’s functional mobility is assessed by IPC Swimming trained classifiers.

The process involves a physical test, technical test and observation in competition, during which time a swimmer’s classification will be determined along with the identified stroke exceptions applicable to the individual.

A minimum of two classifiers form a classification panel consisting of a medical classifier (a doctor or physiotherapist), who will have undertaken the British Para-Swimming classifier training, and a technical classifier (a swimming coach).

  • Click here to e-mail us for more information on how to become a classifier.

In the first instance, swimmers will need to obtain a British Swimming classification and then as they progress along the elite pathway may be put forward for an international classification.

  • Click here to download the physical classification application form
  • Click here to download the physical classification application form in a larger font
  • Click here for the physical classification process

Visual Impairment

Swimmers with a visual impairment range from blind to visually impaired.

When testing is undertaken, the classification is allocated based upon sight in best eye with best correction.

Sight classifications are processed by British Blind Sport.

  • Click here for the visual classification process.

Intellectual Impairment

Swimmers with an intellectual impairment have to meet the eligibility criteria.

There are two levels of II classification in GBR: UKSA and Inas.

  • Click here for the intellectual classification process.

Further Information

Further details regarding eligibility can be found on the IPC website.

For more information on any of these processes or systems please contact the Classification Coordinator on 0161 244 5332 or send an email to classification@swimming.org

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