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Classification is a structure for competition to ensure fair and equitable competition. Athletes with disabilities are grouped in classes defined by the degree of function presented by the disability. (I.E. what they can do).

The Paralympic Movement offers sport opportunities for athletes with physical, visual and intellectual impairments and these can be divided into 10 eligible impairment types. There are eight different types of physical impairments in the Paralympic Movement:

  • Impaired muscle power: With impairments in this category, the force generated by muscles, such as the muscles of one limb, one side of the body or the lower half of the body is reduced, e.g. due to spinal-cord injury, spina bifida or polio.

  • Impaired passive range of movement: Range of movement in one or more joints is reduced in a systematic way. Acute conditions such as arthritis are not included.

  • Loss of limb or limb deficiency: There is a total or partial absence of bones or joints as a consequence of amputation due to illness or trauma or congenital limb deficiency (e.g. dysmelia).

  • Leg-length difference: Significant bone shortening occurs in one leg due to congenital deficiency or trauma.

  • Short stature: Standing height is reduced due to shortened legs, arms and trunk, which are due to a musculoskeletal deficit of bone or cartilage structures.

  • Hypertonia: Hypertonia is marked by an abnormal increase in muscle tension and reduced ability of a muscle to stretch. Hypertonia may result from injury, disease, or conditions which involve damage to the central nervous system (e.g. cerebral palsy).

  • Ataxia: Ataxia is an impairment that consists of a lack of co-ordination of muscle movements (e.g. cerebral palsy, Friedreich’s ataxia).

  • Athetosis: Athetosis is generally characterized by unbalanced, involuntary movements and a difficulty maintaining a symmetrical posture (e.g. cerebral palsy, choreoathetosis).

In addition to athletes with physical impairment, athletes with a visual or intellectual impairment are also included in the Paralympic Movement.

  • Visual impairment:
    Visual Impairment occurs when there is damage to one or more of the components of the vision system, which can include: 

    • impairment of the eye structure/receptors

    • impairment of the optic nerve/optic pathways 

    • impairment of the visual cortex


  • Intellectual Impairment: Athletes with an intellectual impairment are limited in regards to intellectual functions and their adaptive behavior, which is diagnosed before the age of 18 years.


Summer Para-Sports


Winter Para-Sports 


Want to Learn More?

If you would like to learn more about classification, please have a look at the following website. 

For news and videos about the Paralympic Movement, information about the IPC structure and classification, please visit:

Our ParaFed Otago team can help you to begin your classification process, just contact us at or 022 043 3768

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