Swimming is an excellent sport for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. It has been practiced for many years by individuals of all ages, for competition, fitness, and fun.
Swimmers compete in 3 sight classifications as defined by IBSA with B1 no sight at all, and B3 being up to 10 %. In B1 competition, swimmers must wear darkened goggles.
A team coach directs the takeover for relays, as the swimmers may not be able to see their teammate approaching.
Allowances are made in the rules for B1 swimmers who may be too close to a lane line to execute technically correct arm strokes or touches in butterfly or breaststroke.
In the early 1980's, a technique was developed of letting the swimmer who is blind know that the end of the pool is coming. Dedication, experimentation, and hard work by Wilf and Audrey Strom resulted in the technique known as tapping.
A knowledgeable and experienced sighted sport guide (tapper) who gives the blind or visually impaired person some of the necessary information they would see if they could, acts as a tapper for B1 swimmers, and some B2 and B3 swimmers as well.
These tappers are essential in enabling the blind swimmer to reach their optimum performance level. They make it possible for the blind or visually impaired swimmer to test his/her limits and are an important part of both training and competition.
Swim tappers must synchronize their tap with the swimmer's stroke movement and momentum - at exactly the right time to enable the swimmer who is blind to swim at top speed, without fear of crashing into the end of the pool, and to execute a racing turn without losing precious fractions of seconds in a race. A high level of trust is crucial.
Tappers are positioned at each end of the pool and use a rod with a firm foam tip to touch or tap the swimmer at the correct moment.