As an orthoptist and academic in the Department of Clinical Vision Sciences at La Trobe University, I also volunteer my time as a National Classifier of vision impaired athletes for the Australian Paralympic committee. I am really looking forward to watching how the team performs in London this year!
Australian Paralympic Classifiers are trained and certified officials who assess athletes to determine their sport class and sport class status, in accordance with the classification rules for their particular sport. Each classifier has medical or technical qualifications and are trained and certified by sports federations and work in a voluntary capacity with their relevant sporting organisations and the Australian Paralympic Committee.
There will be several vision impaired athletes demonstrating their amazing abilities, amongst them the female Goalball team who will be wearing blacked out goggles whilst competing. The aim of Goalball is to roll a ball (with a bell in it) into the net of the opposing team. The Goalball team has been training hard and it sounds like they will be a force to be reckoned with during their first match against Japan. Go girls!
Whilst the goalball girls all wear goggles, rendering them all blind when competing irrespective of their level of vision impairment, in other sports vision-impaired athletes compete within a specific category which reflects the severity of their vision loss. Classifying athletes with similar impairment together allows for equal opportunity whilst competing and the system ensures that the fastest or best athlete wins and the disability is secondary in the competition.
Good luck to the whole team and especially to paralympian Greg Smith who will be carrying the flag at these games.