Swim Ontario

Para Swimming


International Paralympic Committee Website

Classification Info

Requirements for Classification

  • 11 years old minimum
  • been with a competitive club for at least 1 year
  • be able to swim a legal 100IM 

If you have a swimmer ready for classification, please click HERE and submit a Request for Sport Class form to Swimming Canada.

Questions regarding Para Swimming in Ontario?  Please contact Lindsay



Swimming, and sport in general, for persons with a disability was borne out of World War II.

The Stoke-Mandeville Games in Great Britain were first held in 1948, providing sporting opportunities for WWII veterans with spinal cord and other permanent injuries. Athletes from the Netherlands participated in the 1952 Games and slowly the movement grew, with the disability sport landscape improving dramatically through the 1960’s and ‘70’s. In 1976 Toronto played host to the first “merged” Games, where athletes from various disability groups competed together in a multi-sport event.

The term “Paralympic”, meaning “parallel to the Olympics”, was adopted and soon after the International Paralympic Committee was established as the world governing body for athletes with a disability.

Today the Paralympics is the world’s 2nd largest sporting event behind only the Olympic Games, with over 4000 athletes from 150 countries in 22 different sports competing in Beijing in 2008.

Starting in 1989 Swim Ontario, together with Sport for Disabled Ontario (now ParaSport Ontario),

worked to provide opportunities for children with disabilities to become part of competitive swim clubs across the province. In 1997 a “letter of understanding” was signed between Swim Ontario and Sport for Disabled Ontario whereby Swimmers with a Disability (SWAD) officially came under the jurisdiction of Swim Ontario, with all program design and delivery the responsibility of the provincial sport organization. In 2009 the terminalogy changed from Swimmer with a Disability (SWAD) to Para Swimmers.

Since 1994 Swimming Natation Canada has been the National Sport Organization (NSO) for swimming.

Swimmers who rise up through the ranks of the provincial and national Para Programs may eventually have the opportunity to represent their country at major international events.


There are 14 officially recognized disability classifications. Swimmers in the functional classification system (FCS) compete in classes S1 to S10, and include athletes with spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, dysmalia, amputations, and other disabilities that fall under the “les autres” designation. Athletes with more significant disabilities compete in the lower classes, S1 to S5, while S10 athletes are deemed least disabled.

S11, S12 and S13 athletes are those with visual disabilities, with S11 swimmers being completely blind, and 12’s and 13’s having reduced visual acuity and field of vision.

To be assigned a disability class for swimming, athletes must go through the classification process. For those athletes in the functional system this usually involves a Bench Test, which is an evaluation of strength, co-ordination and range of motion conducted by a certified medical classifier. A point value ranging from 0-5 is assigned to each task, and at the conclusion of the bench test these point values are tabulated to arrive at a classification recommendation. The higher the point score, the higher the classification. 

The swimmer usually is then asked to perform a water test overseen by a certified technical classifier, who is primarily watching for movements in the water that verify the classification decision arrived at through the Bench Test, including observation of body position, stroke execution, turning and starting.

In order to be assigned a visual disability classification, athletes with visual impairment must simply provide the results of an opthamological examination.

The S14 classification is for those swimmers deemed to have some form of intellectual disability, which must be supported by documentation from several experts, including but not limited to educators and/or psychologists. 

To be classified swimmers or their coaches must contact Swim Ontario for the next available classification opportunity, which usually occur twice per year.




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