Charities supporting people living with vision impairments, including the Nystagmus Network and the Albinism Fellowship UK, have signed an open letter from B4 International Blind Sports, outlining concerns about discrimination towards athletes classified B4 in international blind sports. The letter is addressed to the IBSA (International Blind Sports Association) and the IPC (International Paralympic Committee).
Classification currently sees many athletes and sports men, women and young people with nystagmus classified as B4. This means that, whilst their sight is sufficiently impaired to prevent them competing fairly alongside fully sighted people, within the current regulations, they are unable to represent their country in any sport at international level.
We would argue that the B4 classification does not fully recognise the variability of vision or the impact of glare on people with nystagmus and ocular albinism. For this reason the letter includes the following:
“A frustration further compounded by the fact that visually impaired athletes have varying levels of functional vision, and the difference from B3 to B4 is, minimal in some conditions, and could easily be affected by external factors, such as tiredness, light and interpretation of visual cues.”
B4 International Blind Sports have also set up a petition for anyone to sign who wishes to have blind sports classification re-examined.
Here’s Gary’s sporty nystagmus success story …
Since 2014 I’ve been playing county cricket for Warwickshire Visually Impaired Cricket Club. The club comprises players of all ages (my shirt number is 49 – the age at which I made my debut) and varying levels of sight. Several of our players are registered blind and we also have two players with albinism who have nystagmus.
Blind cricket follows most of the laws of cricket, with a few modifications. The ball is white and bigger and contains ball bearings to assist the players with a lower level of vision. The stumps are bigger and the boundary is slightly shorter. Totally blind players are allowed to take a wicket with a catch on the first bounce. Each team must have a certain number of players of each sight classification. My classification, awarded after a high street optician sight test and referral to British Blind Sport, is B4 (high partial).
The game has taken me around the country and I’ve played in two T20 Finals days. We have also won the County Championship twice.
I’ve relished this belated opportunity to play cricket again, especially as I had to give up the “red ball” game at primary school due to risk of injury.
I would recommend the game for anyone who likes sport, regardless of their age or gender as we have mixed teams.
More information can be found on the Blind Cricket England and Wales website.
The Nystagmus Network often hears of people struggling with the current classifications for vision impairment in sports. Since many people with nystagmus probably don’t classify with the current test we would like to invite members of the nystagmus community to take part in new research which may bring us all one step closer to inclusion in major competition.If you would like to be involved in research into classification with the IPC, please read on …
Jamie Fuller, founder of the Outspan Rebels VI ski team, has been in touch with the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) team involved in the research to adapt the way classification is done or the parameters measured.
Hikmat Subhi is leading a UK team in Cambridge, whilst another team in Canada is focusing particularly on skiing.
To take part, please contact Hikmat directly. Email at [email protected] or call 01233 698070.
Important note from the classification research team:
“We do classification research, but are independent from classifiers. So it’s important to say that people who take part receive no advantage in future classification, just as those who don’t take part would not be disadvantaged. This project is separate from what is happening for skiing, so it won’t directly change classification in skiing, though hopefully it will improve the way that the visual field is measured during classification for skiing. “