Swim Nova Scotia is fully inclusive of all swimmers with a disability (PARA Swimmers).14196077_10154415256344854_736540450574372756_o


  • Swimming for persons with a disability began through several different movements during the 1940’s and 1950’s by governing bodies which were divided by means of medical disability (Intellectual, Visual and Physical)
  • Sport for persons with a disability has since evolved. Today we have a world sport governing body known as the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The IPC is divided into sport specific technical committees that oversee the development of sport for disability groups as well as supervising and coordinating the Paralympics every four years.
  • Today, the Paralympics is the world’s second largest elite sporting event (behind the Olympic Games) featuring premier athletes with a disability in 22 sports including swimming.
  • Canada has grown to be one of the leaders in the world of Paralympic Swimming.
  • Swimming Canada has integrated a Swimmer with a Disability Program which has helped many persons with a disability become a better swimmers.
  • Swimming Canada became the first integrated National Sports Organization in Canada in 1993.
  • Swimming Canada in conjunction with each provincial section are responsible for the National and provincial programming for Para swimmers. The ultimate goal always being to get as many athletes to the Paralympic Games as possible.
  • Para swimmers, like able bodied swimmers can be carded athletes at the national and developmental levels.

Athlete First Philosophy

At all levels of swimming for persons with a disability, there is an athlete first philosophy. Our philosophy
stands that Para swimmers are athletes first and persons with a disability second. All swimmers should be coached and treated equally in every club or program across the nation.

Who is eligible?

Swimming for persons with a disability combines a broad range of disabilities into three categories:

  • Functional disabilities
    • Amputees/Dysmelia; Cerebral Palsy/Head Injury; Spinal Cord Injury/Polio; Dwarfism; Les
    • Autres (other conditions including major joint restriction, coordination restriction, limb paralysis/weakness)
  • Visual Disabilities
    • Blind; Visually impaired
  • Intellectual Disabilities

Para Swimming Eligible Impairments

If you are interested or would like more information please contact Swim Nova Scotia.

What is classification?

• Classification is the term used for the grouping of swimmers with like abilities for the purpose of competing in sport. Classification ensures a fair and level playing field for all competitors. Classification is present in able bodied sport in the form of weight classes in boxing, judo, etc.
• Classification gives swimmers three stroke classes:
o S Strokes – Freestyle, Backstroke, Butterfly
o SB Stroke – Breaststroke
o SM Stroke- Individual Medley
• Swimmers are grouped into three areas of classification as listed above
o Functional Classification System – FCS
o FCS has 10 classes with Class S1 having the least ability and Class S10 having the most ability
Classification is done in three steps by an IPC classification team. The team is composed of a trained medical classifier
and a trained technical classifier.
• Step 1 – Bench test done by the medical classifier
• Step 2- Water test done by the technical classifier
• Step 3- Meet observation to confirm the results of the other two steps
o Visual Classification
o 3 classes – S11 completely blind; S12 & S13 varying degrees of blindness
o testing only performed by an ophthalmologist
o Intellectual Classification
o 1 class – s14
o testing performed by a psychologist
• At the end of the classification process, swimmers are given a set of classification numbers (i.e. Sally Swimmer S9 SB8 SM10)


• Trained coaches have acquired the skills they need to coach Para swimmers. As with any athlete, the coach needs to focus on individuals strengths and abilities rather than their disability.
• “Thinking outside the Box” is a great way to expand on the possibilities available when coaching a swimmer with a disability. Not all Para swimmers can perform the same movements as able bodied swimmers; but like able bodied swimmers,
they will have their strengths. As a coach, utilizing these strengths should be a primary goal.
• As the International Paralympic Committee Chairperson Anne Green said “you don’t have to be an expert, you just have to be interested and willing to learn and grow” about coaching. As a coach of a disabled swimmer, you will run into many different obstacles than an able bodied swimmer, but none the less they can be over come. These occurrences will be helping your coaching career grow.
• It is possible for any Para swimmers to find a group of athletes with like-disabilities to train with. This process is called Integration or Inclusion.
• Para swimmers will improve like as an able bodied swimmer given that they are properly coached and trained.

Swim Meets

• Swim meets are a great way for swimmers to see themselves improving. Para swimmers can compete in any sanctioned meet.
• Often Para swimmers may swim shorter distances depending on their class, as well as most of the events an able bodied swimmer is offered.
• Standard events offered on the Paralympic menu are as followed 50, 100 Free for all classes; 200 free S1-S5, 400 Free S6-14; 50 back S1-S5, 100 back S6-14; 50 Breast S1-S5, 100 Breast S6-S14; 50 Fly S1-S7, 100 Fly S8-S14; 150 IM S1-S5; 200 IM S6-S14.
• Swimmers can compete a number of ways:
o Class racing – where a swimmer only competes against swimmers of the same class – usually at World Championships, the Paralympics and some National and International competitions.
o Multi-disability racing – where the swimmers compete against other Para swimmers and the winner is determined by a point scoring system based on the swimmers time and class. This type is the best format for most invitational and provincial meets. It is also seen at some major international competitions.