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Classification is the process of grouping athletes according to how their impairment affects their stroke mechanics, with the aim of creating a level playing field for competition.

In the para swimming pathway swimming there are four impairment groups recognised by the International Paralympic Committee; physical, visual and intellectual.

  • Classes S1-S10 are allocated to swimmers with a physical impairment
  • Classes S11-S13 are allocated to swimmers with a visual impairment
  • Class S14 is allocated to swimmers with an intellectual impairment

There are ten eligible impairments in para swimming:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Loss of limb or limb deficiency
  • Leg-length difference
  • Short stature
  • Hypertonia
  • Ataxia
  • Athetosis
  • Visual
  • Intellectual

To be classified with a physical impairment, a swimmer’s functional mobility is assessed by World Para Swimming trained classifiers. The process involves a physical test, technical test and observation in competition, during which time a swimmer’s classification will be determined along with the identified stroke exceptions applicable to the individual.

To find out more about classification and to apply for the classification process; please visit the British Para Swimming website

Please click here for video explaining classification

S1 - S5 Classification

Swimmers who have physical disabilities with a significant impairment in 3 or more limbs including spinal injuries.


S6 - S10 Classification

Swimmers with physical disabilities whose impairment affects up to 2 limbs and Dwarfism.


S11 - S13 Classification

Swimmers who are blind or have a visual impairment.


S14 Classification

Swimmers who have an Intellectual Impairment.