Everything You've Always Wanted To Know About Visually Impaired Classification

Everything You've Always Wanted To Know About Visually Impaired Classification

Did you know Paralympic athletes get tested on how blind they are?

I am currently sitting on a plane traveling from Hanover à the Netherlands for the weekend. I left today (Saturday) and will be back on campus on Monday afternoon just in time to start studying for my finals. I know this sounds irrational and you’re right, it is. but if I don’t go on this trip I can’t ski this season, because every Paralympic athlete needs to get something called a classification. Classifying is a way of basically ranking every disability to make varying degrees of these disabilities comparable. Classification is the reason I (someone who is legally blind but can see some things) can ski against someone who is totally blind and it can be deemed fair. Essentially I am flying to the Netherlands so that I can be reassured for the 10,000th time that yes, indeed, I am still blind and no my vision has not gotten better or worse in the last three years. However, unlike myself, many of my competitors do have degenerative vision lose. For them, classification is incredibly important because their vision gets worse over time, and therefore their classification can often change.

Visually impaired classification is broken down into three categories; B1, B2, and B3. B1 athletes are totally blind and compete wearing completely blacked out goggles. B2 skiers are slightly more sighted than B1 athletes, and B3 skiers are the most sighted of the visually impaired athletes. Each division has different factors, which basically refers to a percent of the actual time it takes the athlete to ski the race. B1 athletes who have the least amount of vision might, for example, have a factor of 0.55 for some races, meaning only 55% of that athlete’s raw time is considered. On the other hand, a B3 may have a factor of around 0.85 meaning 85% of that athlete’s time is considered. The difference in factors is what makes the times between the two athletes comparable and ideally competitive.

Visually impaired classification can get a bit controversial because, unlike some of the other disabilities, eye sight isn’t quite as straight forward. For instance, it’s pretty easy to look at an amputee and know whether he is missing his leg above or below the knee. It is a little more difficult to evaluate someone who is legally blind and determine just how much that person can actually see. Vision conditions are so diverse but in order for classification to work an arbitrary line must be drawn to categorize visual impairments. Consequently, it is impossible to make everyone happy even though the system is designed to help.

There are plenty of athletes, including myself that fall unfortunately close to that arbitrary cut off line between classes. There are a wide range of vision disorders in each category, and while being at the lower end of one may be portrayed as a disadvantage, I like to think of it as a challenge to be the best athlete I can be. Classification is something every Paralympic athlete knows well, and while it will never be perfect, it is necessary and a crucial part of Paralympic sport.

Cover Image Credit: youtube.com

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.

I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn’t sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It’s obvious your calling wasn’t coaching and you weren’t meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn’t have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn’t your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that’s how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “it's not what you say, its how you say it.”

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won’t even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don’t hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That’s the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she’s the reason I continued to play.”

I don’t blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn’t working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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The Claims Made During The Ontario Municipal Elections Serve As A Case Study On Rising Populism

Some candidates are stretching the extent to which south of the border inspiration is used.


As a political candidate — regardless of where you are on the political spectrum — one thing's for sure: You can believe and support whatever you want, but you shouldn't make up statements that can be easily fact-checked. While most of the electorate will swallow up your platform, pesky undergrads like myself will find it very annoying.

Personal notes aside, this populism has been on the rise in Canada as of late. Even though I have mentioned before that I do find myself on the right of the political spectrum, I certainly do not enjoy a political campaign built on faulty populist statements — regardless of your political affiliation. You may say what the people want to hear, but you will never be able to follow up on it.

Never has this been more apparent than during the municipal elections taking place in Ontario. Largely overlooked due to a controversial last-minute cut of the Toronto City Council and the mayoral candidacy of a rather questionable far-right individual, populism saw a surge in the October elections, with prospective city Councillors making promises even some Prime Ministers can't keep.

And interestingly enough, a lot of that populism worked very well out of the city center — in places where residents are actually willing to listen. In Thornhill, a well-to-do Long Island-esque suburb just north of Toronto, nearly every candidate made far-fetched promises that aren't even remotely within their potential job descriptions to follow up on.

One prospective school board trustee singlehandedly promised to change the sex education curriculuma change even the provincial government can find difficult to make, as well as address a supposed guidance problem in one of the town's high schools. (The latter, by the way, isn't an actual problem according to personal friends attending that school.)

In the same district, a city council candidate took it up a notch. His election campaign was very clear. He would, singlehandedly, cancel a Public-public partnership project to construct a bus rapid way — magically solving traffic chaos — and divert the $150 million for the project in order to extend Toronto's troubled subway north.

As great as these promises sound, the project has been underway for about three years. Its cancellation will not only not save the city any money, but it will add up in deconstruction costs (as well as various contract cancellation fees). The company, Viva, has a 50-year "vision" project underway and signed with the municipality — whereby it will construct nonstop for the next half-century, as well as be allowed to charge the highest fares in the country.

And what about that promised subway for $150 million? Even if one was to ignore the fact that the Toronto Transit Commission itself stated that the troubled Yonge–University line, already at capacity and suffering daily breakdowns, will not be extended until its ancient signals are replaced and a new line is built to ease its congestion.

A kilometer of subway tunnels hovers around the $300 million mark. Or, to the expansion plan's map, in and around $3.5 billion. Those $150 million saved will barely extend the subway past its parking lot still in Toronto.

That potential subway would have ended at Richmond Hill, another district with an equally as unrealistic mayoral candidate. There, one of the candidates promised to fundamentally change the entire system of government — including a new voting system, eased taxes and mayoral term limits. A prime ministerial candidate in this country would not be ashamed to have those on their platform list.

Thankfully (or not), none of the candidates won any of their prospective positions. In fact, they all placed second in rather close races behind their respective incumbents. But that does raise an eyebrow to the average Canadian. Have our politics been reduced to an empty form of loud, promising populism?

And more significantly, when will we have any candidates, incumbent or not, who are at least partly true to their role? I'm referring to those who know what's truly good and feasible for the community, rather than what sounds good on the mic and brings home a plentiful government salary.

All respective campaign sites, by the way, have since been removed by their candidates.

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