Swimming has been practiced for fun, fitness, or competition by individuals who are blind or partially sighted for many years. It is a great physical activity or sport for people of all ages, levels of vision, and who also may have additional exceptionalities. The buoyancy of the water is a unique environment to learn to move in. Learning to swim is also an important key component of water safety for everyone.
Athletes from BC Blind Sports have had great success in swimming at the Paralympic Games and other international events. Swimming is one of the key Paralympic Sports and is governed by World Para Swimming. You can find the link to the international swimming rules on their website. Swimmers compete in sight categories (classifications) based on their level of vision.
Key rule modifications include tapping by a sport guide, as well as having a team coach support relay takeovers.
Tapping (modified from the International Blind Sports Website):
In the early 1980’s, a technique was developed to let swimmers who are blind know that they are approaching the end of the pool. Dedication, experimentation, and hard work by Wilf and Audrey Strom of Winnipeg Manitoba resulted in the technique known as tapping. A knowledgeable and experienced sighted sport guide (tapper) gives a swimmer who is blind or partially sighted the necessary information they miss due to their level of vision.
Tappers are essential to allow a swimmer who is blind to safely reach their optimum performance level, making it possible for the swimmer to test his/her limits and are an important part of both training and competition. Swim tappers must synchronize their tap with the swimmer’s stroke movement and momentum – at exactly the right time to enable the swimmer to swim at top speed, without fear of crashing into the end of the pool, and to execute a racing turn or finish without losing precious fractions of seconds in a race. A high level of trust is crucial. Tappers are positioned at each end of the pool and use a rod with a firm foam tip to touch or tap the swimmer at the correct moment.
For additional information about swimming, please contact BC Blind Sports at (604) 325-8638.