Swimming for persons with a visual impairment is a sport that has been practiced for many years. Swimming offers many benefits and can be enjoyed and practiced from the junior level well into one’s senior years. This sport has been and continues to grow in popularity in Canada and worldwide. At the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, 70 swimmers participated and since then this number has grown dramatically; at the London 2012 Paralympics, 604 swimmers participated in over 148 events.
Competitive Swimming follows the Fédération Internationale de Natation – International Swimming Federation (FINA) rules with some allowances for those living with a visual impairment. Visually impaired swimmers compete in three classes – B1, B2, or B3 as defined by the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA). For instance, a B1 swimmer, i.e. those living totally without sight, requires more consideration than B2 or B3 swimmers when it comes to such allowances.
Are you interested in getting involved with swimming either competitively or recreational, but don’t know how to go about doing it? Please contact us and we will help get you in the pool. If you are a swimming organization or a club that wants information on how to involve and train athletes who are blind or visually impaired, please contact us as well. We can help provide resources and expertise to make the athletes’ experience be the best possible.
About Blind Swimming
“Tapping” is the most important assistance required for visually impaired swimmers. This is a communication technique from the sighted partner to the swimmer to indicate when he or she is reaching the end of the pool and must react by executing a turn or making a final touch. “Tappers” are positioned at each end of the pool and using a specialized rod touches or “taps” the swimmer. Allowances are also made for a B1 swimmer who may be too close to a lane line to execute technically correct arm strokes in the butterfly or breaststroke. For relays, a team coach directs the takeover. While most of the fully sighted swimmers choose to wear traditional swim goggles, B1 swimmers are required to wear blacked-out goggles. B2 and B3 swimmers can compete under FINA rules without further adaptations however due to some light conditions they do have the option of using a tapper.