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Rules Committee Blog

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  1. Disability Swimming Questions

    by , April 28th, 2019 at 03:02 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    A couple of questions were received regarding the use of aids (snorkels, pull buoys, and other equipment) because of disabilities. In one case, disabilities as a result of a stroke.

    We dont have specific competitions for swimmers with disabilities, but our rules do provide some latitude for officials to accommodate swimmers with disabilities. Our goal is to make it possible for as many people to participate as we can. The rules say that referees can modify a rule for permanent life-altering physical conditions.

    A stroke can have significant lasting effects, even though things can change over time with physical therapy and other treatment, so that certainly qualifies as a disability under these guidelines. When we make an accommodation, it is only for a specific meet, so it is best to contact the referee before each meet in which you are interested in competing. We try to work with each swimmer in order to determine an appropriate solution.

    I can describe a few general things that we can do, but it is best to make judgements based on specific information from the swimmer. A referee would normally ask you some questions to better understand your physical condition, what you do in workouts, how you disability limits any other life functions, and if you are undergoing any type of medical treatment that would be expected to change things.

    We can always do things like permit extra time or assistance in getting to the starting platform, getting in the water, getting out of the water, etc. The officials could allow you to swim in a different lane, maybe closer to a ladder, ramp, or lift if there is one at the pool. We could also allow you to swim in an outside lane while other events are running if you have a slower time.

    If a swimmer is physically incapable of complying with a rule because you have lost the use of an arm or leg, the referee can modify the rule for that swimmer. Swimming with one arm would be perfectly fine for freestyle, but could also be OK for other strokes if the referee approves a modification.

    We dont generally permit the use of equipment as an aid in competition (things like pull buoys, snorkels, hand paddles). However, if this is the only way that someone is able to participate, the referee could permit the use of equipment as a local option, but the swim would not be included in the official results. It would depend on several factors specific to the meet. We would not be able to make this accommodation at a USMS National Championship meet.

    Again, these are just some general guidelines. With good communication between swimmers and meet officials, we can generally find a good solution that would permit most athletes to participate in masters meets.