Visual Impairment Classification

Paralympic sport exists so that athletes with a disability have equal opportunities to compete and be successful in sport. Classification groups athletes who have similar impairments together into classes for competition in their particular sport. Each Paralympic sport has a different classification system and classification may be based on a physical, intellectual or visual impairment.

Why is classification required?

By grouping similar athletes together, an athlete’s disability plays less of an impact on the outcomes of competition. This means that classification helps to allow the fastest, strongest or best athletes in each class to succeed in their sport.

When is classification required?

If you want to compete in sport as an athlete with a disability, you must undergo a sports-specific classification assessment and hold a classification class. This isn’t required for general participation or social involvement in sport.

What is the role of a classifier?

Classifiers are trained and certified, and assess athletes impairments to determine their sport class and sport class status, according to the International classification rules for their sport. Classifiers have either medical or technical qualifications, combined with sport specific expertise. In Australia, they are trained and certified by the Australian Paralympic Committee and national sports federations, and work as volunteers at a state, national and international level.

To be eligible to commence training as a classifier, individuals must meet the following prerequisites:

Medical classifiers: Currently registered medical professional (physiotherapist or medical doctor); with minimum 5 years clinical experience with people with physical disabilities. OR; Currently registered Ophthalmic professional (Orthoptist, Ophthalmologist) with minimum 5 years clinical experience with people with low vision. Individuals must be based in one of the major Low Vision Centres in Australia.

Classification for Athletes with a Vision Impairment

Athletes with a vision impairment compete in Paralympic sports such as Alpine Skiing, Athletics, Cycling, Equestrian, Goalball, Rowing, Sailing, Swimming and Triathlon. Athletes must specify a sport when they are seeking classification. The testing procedure is standard across all Paralympic sports, however, the classes are sports specific.

Who is eligible?

Athletes have a diagnosis of at least one of the following:

  • impairment of the eye structure;
  • impairment of the optic nerve or pathways;
  • impairment of the visual cortex of the brain.

Athletes are classified according their level of corrected vision and must have an impairment in BOTH eyes that meet the minimal disability criteria of:

  • visual acuity that is less than or equal to LogMAR = 1.00 (6/60) and/or
  • visual field that is less than a radius of 20 degrees

Athletes will be required to provide medical documentation from their ophthalmologist prior to seeking a classification.

For additional information on visual classification of athletes, please visit the Australian Paralympic Committee website here where you will be able to access the latest visual classification resource sheets.