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Swimming is an easily adaptable sport for athletes who are blind and visually impaired.  Depending on your visual acuity, there are either zero, one or two adaptations necessary to compete in swimming.  If you’re a B3 athlete, there are no adaptations.  If you’re a B2, you may need a ‘tapper’ – someone to tap you on the shoulder with a tennis ball attached to a mobility cane when it’s time to make your flip turn.  If you’re a B1, you need a tapper and blacked-out goggles.

If you’re interested in competing in swimming, there are a few simple steps you can follow to be successful.  First, enroll in a good swim program.  Learn and become proficient in all four competitive strokes:  butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke and freestyle.  Learn turns and starts.  Next, join your local USA Swimming or YMCA swim club.  Use the ‘Find a Club’ tool on USA Swimming’s website and be sure to contact the Local Swimming Committee’s (LSC) Disability Swimming Chair for more information on programs and opportunities in your local area.  Finally, compete and have fun!

If you would like to compete nationally against your peers, the U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Championships is an event you should consider annually.  If you aspire to wear the red, white and blue for Team USA at the Paralympic Games, check out the following resources for information, requirements and opportunities.

If you are a coach interested in learning more about coaching swimmers with visual impairments, check out this instructional video from Camp Abilities.

U.S. Paralympic Swimming Resources
U.S. Paralympic Swimming Athlete and Sport Program Plan
U.S. Paralympic Swimming Events
U.S. Paralympic Swimming IPC Licensing

Erin Popovich
Assoc. Dir., Para Swimming Sport Ops – U.S. Paralympics