Guide to visually impaired Paralympics classification

There are varying degrees of visual impairment and athletes are given a classification depending on the level of useful vision they possess. Each sport has different physical demands and so has its own set of classifications. For many sports a specific letter and number combination is used to describe a particular classification. So, for instance, all track events in athletics start with the letter ‘T’ and T11–13 covers the three categories of visual impairment.

Athletics

All disability groups can compete in Athletics but a system of letters and numbers is used to distinguish between them.

The letter ‘F’ is for field athletes, ‘T’ determines those who compete on the track while the number refers to their category.

In each class, the first digit indicates the nature of an athlete’s impairment, and the second indicates the amount of functional ability the athlete has. The lower the second number, the greater the impact of the impairment on the athlete competing in that event.

Athletes who are blind compete in Class 11. They are permitted to run with a sighted guide. Field athletes in this class are also permitted the use of acoustic signals (voice, electronic, clapping etc) in the 100m, long jump and triple jump. Class 13 athletes have more useful sight than Class 12 athletes. A runner in class 13 will have limited sight and will not use a guide runner to compete.

Cycling

Visually impaired athletes compete together with no separate classification system. They ride in tandem with a sighted guide.

B: athletes with a visual impairment who compete on a tandem with a sighted pilot on the front

Equestrian

All disability groups can take part in Equestrian sport but riders are divided into four grades.

Grade 3: Athletes with good balance, leg movement and coordination, including totally blind athletes. Riders who are visually impaired use 'callers' to find their way around the arena.

Football Five-a-side

Five-a-side Football is played by athletes with a visual impairment.

They are classified according to their level of sight, as B1, B2 or B3.

Players in the B1 classification are considered blind, while those rated B2 and B3 are classified as visually impaired or partially sighted.

All four outfield players must wear blackout eyeshades to ensure fairness, while the goalkeeper may be fully sighted.

Goalball

Goalball is played by visually impaired athletes and a special rule means there is no need for classification: participants wear ‘black-out’ masks to ensure everyone competes equally.

Judo

Judo is contested by visually impaired athletes only. There is no categorisation as competitors are divided by weight.

Rowing

Rowing is currently divided into four boat classes which are part of the World Championships programme:

LTA4 +: A four-person, sweep-oar boat plus cox with sliding seats. Open to athletes with an impairment but who have movement in the legs, trunk and arms. LTA athletes row as a mixed coxed four. No more than two of the mixed coxed four may have a visual impairment and the cox is not required to have an impairment to be eligible.

Sailing

Sailing is a multi-disability sport with the amputee, cerebral palsy, visually impaired, wheelchair and other physical disability groups competing together.

Competitors are ranked according to a points system where low points are given to the severely disabled and high points for less disabled.

Three-Person Keelboat: each athlete is assigned a point score between 1 and 7 based on the impact of the athlete's impairment to perform tasks on the boat. The lower the point score, the greater the impact of the athlete’s impairment on their ability to sail. The total classification points of all three sailors must not exceed a maximum of 14 points.

Two-Person Keelboat: athletes are assigned a class of TPA if they have an impairment with a greater impact on their ability to sail. TPB athletes have an impairment with a lesser impact on their ability to sail. One TPA athlete and one TPB athlete make up the team of a Two-Person Keelboat

Single-Person Keelboat: the athlete must meet the minimum eligibility requirement for the sport, the equivalent of a point 7 in the Three-Person Keelboat.

Swimming

Classes 11-13 are allocated to swimmers with a visual impairment. Class 11 will have little or no vision; Class 12 can recognise the shape of a hand and have some ability to see; Class 13 will have greater vision than the other two classes but less than 20 degrees of vision.

The prefix ‘S’ denotes the class for Freestyle, Backstroke and Butterfly. The prefix ‘SB’ denotes the class for Breaststroke. The prefix ‘SM’ denotes the class for Individual Medley.