Inclusion & Disability Swimming

Swim England Equality Policy - HERE

W&DSC Equality & Diveristy Policy 2023 - HERE

W&DSC Club Diveristy and Inclusion Action Plan 2023 - 24 - HERE


Disabity (Para) Swimming 

Swimmers with disabilities have the options to be classified as a para swimmer or apply for a certificate of exemption to be able to compete in competitions in a fair manner for their disability.

Swimmers classified as para swimmers can compete in county level competitions up to British Championships, qualifying in their classification group. Certificate of exemption allows swimmers with impairments to compete in competitions and not get DQ for their impairement.

Para-Swimming is governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). Competitors are classified on their functional ability to perform each of the swimming strokes. Athletes are then assigned a category in which they then compete against other swimmers with the same ability. 

The swimmers can be either physically, visually or intellectually impaired and so the rules for Para-Swimming are altered to add starting platforms and in-water starts for athletes that choose to do so. Tappers/signals are also introduced for visually impaired athletes.

Helpful British Swimming toolkit on Para Swimming - HERE

Para-swimming classification

Para-swimming classification is used to ensure a level playing field for competitive para-swimmers.

Swimmers are classed in one of 15 groups based on their degree of ability, with each group indicating a different level of physical, visual, intellectual or hearing impairment.

The nature of a swimmer’s impairment – particularly in the physical classes – means that they may have more ability to swim one stroke than another.

For this reason, a prefix is also used in para-swimming classification:

  • The prefix S represents freestyle, backstroke and butterfly
  • The prefix SB refers to breaststroke classification
  • The prefix SM represents classification for individual medley events.

IPC para-swimming classification:

The current para-swimming classification set out by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) uses classes S1 – S10 for different levels of physical impairment, with a lower number indicating a more severe impairment.

There are ten different types of impairments:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Loss of limb or limb deficiency
  • Leg-length difference
  • Short stature
  • Hypertonia
  • Ataxia
  • Athetosis
  • Visual
  • Intellectual
  • Click here to find out more about para-swimming classification on the World Para-Swimming website.
  • Please click HERE for the list of all eligable and non eligable impairments. Swimmers may not be able to be classified for Para swimming, but may be eligable for the Certificate of Exemption (please see below).

The three visual impairment classes (S11 – S13) range from very low or no visual ability in the S11 class to the least severe visual impairment in the S13 class.

There is only one group for swimmers with intellectual impairment (S14, SB14 and SM14) who will have difficulties with pattern recognition, sequencing and memory, or have a slower reaction time.

Deaf swimming classification

The primary classification for deaf swimmers – defined as having at least 55dB impairment in your better ear – is S15 while the Great Britain Deaf Swimming Club and Swim England also use S65 class to represent swimmers who are registered to compete in domestic, but not international, competitions as deaf-classified athletes.

Certificate of Exception

The purpose of the Certificate of Exception is to ensure that swimmers who are disabled but not classified are not disqualified for performing a stroke incorrectly due to their disability.

To be eligible for a certificate of swimming disability, a swimmer must:

  • Have not yet been classified
  • Not wish to undergo classification
  • Not fit the Physical Classification System

This was particularly relevant to swimmers who could not, or did not, want to have a para-swimming classification.

Swimmers and parents need to discuss with lead coach if would like to proceed with this certificate application. Guidance is HERE

Please find the Application form HERE



Inclusion in Swimming

Swim England Transgender Competition Policy

Please find the SE Transgender competiton policy - HERE  and HERE