The first steps towards a potential new classification system for Visually Impaired (VI) athletes have been made following a two-day long meeting involving worldwide experts in ophthalmology and sport science in Bonn, Germany.
Hosted by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA), the intensive two day workshop saw both short and long-term pathways for classification presented and analyzed.
With the focus on current and future VI-classification protocols, IBSA Medical classification procedures were explained and framed against the IPC Classification Code. The meeting also saw different working groups discuss current testing protocols and ways these can be strengthened.
Besides strengthening the assessment of visual acuity and visual field accuracy, the meeting also covered the importance of medical diagnostics information available to classifiers, and the challenges in having standardized equipment globally available at all times.
Dr. Peter Van de Vliet, the IPC’s Medical & Scientific Director, said: “This meeting was critical to the future of VI-athlete classification in the Paralympic Movement. The engagement of world-wide respected experts in low vision was far above any expectation, and created a unique momentum in VI-classification.
“Immediate short-term solutions to strengthen the actual processes were presented, with the IPC and IBSA aiming to implement these in the very near future. Furthermore, all invited attendees expressed their willingness to get engaged into the long-term development of sport-specific classification systems.
“In addition to discussion on classifier profiles and the opportunities in co-operating with existing low vision expert centres, the meeting went through criteria that should be considered in light of the Classification Code requirement that classification should asses a direct relationship between impairment and activity limitation.”
IBSA Development Director Neil O'Donovan said, “This two-day seminar represented a major milestone in our quest to develop and enhance existing classification rules, procedures and policies in order to guarantee a fair and objective method of visual assessment, which is thoroughly reliable, and can be replicated every time an IBSA or IPC Classification takes place, in every location.
“It was also the first important step on a long road to defining the nature and extent of sport-specific classification of blind sports. It will be followed, in time, by research and evidence-gathering in order to build a case for devising a comprehensive classification system well in advance of Rio 2016.
“During the two days in Bonn, I was delighted with the commitment and energy displayed by so many world-renowned experts in low vision and sports science. Their agreement to continue their engagement with IBSA and IPC is most encouraging."
Amongst those attending the meeting at the IPC’s Headquarters in Bonn were Ian Bailey, Professor of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of California; David Thompson, Professor of Optometry at London City University; August Colenbrander from the International Council of Ophthalmology; Hassan Minto from the World Council of Optometry and David Mann, from the Australian Institute of Sport in Melbourne.